EIPR Launches “Starving for Justice”, a Campaign to Support the Rights of Hunger Strikers in Egyptian Prisons
Desperation seems to have struck with thousands of political prisoners, punished for their political choices, forced to witness and experience gross human rights violations in detention facilities, and denied access to fair trials. Dozens of prisoners across the political spectrum - including supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood as well as secular and leftist activists - refused food in protest to their arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, the authorities’ failure to respect the minimum standards of fair trial in many documented cases and the ill-treatment and inhumane conditions to which they are subjected in prisons. One of the strikers, Mohamed Soltan, is currently in the Intensive Care Unit for the second time in less than three months for health complications due to his 240-day long hunger strike.
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) launched a campaign Tuesday under the title of “Starving for Justice” to support the rights of hunger strikers in Egyptian prisons and raise awareness on the responsibilities of the state towards them. EIPR has collected testimonies from families of hunger strikers in prisons including: Mohamed Soltan, Ibrahim el-Yamani, Ahmed Zeyadah and Sanaa Seif
After exhausting all other means to challenge the injustice against them, a number of prominent activists behind bars and outside started a new wave of hunger strikes that gained momentum in August 2014. Activist groups recorded 85 cases of hunger strikes in Egyptian prisons. But as state authorities consistently deny independent observers access to prisons, it is impossible to verify the actual number which is likely to be higher especially amid reports from Islamist groups that put the number at a much bigger figure. With street protests effectively banned by Law number 17 of 2013, and with the shocking judicial practices that allow for gross violations of due process rights, starving, in some cases to death, seems to be the only way political prisoners and their supporters outside can communicate their grievance to the world.
A considerable number of hunger strikers are detained as a result of the draconian protest law- one of the most effective tools used by the state in its relentless crackdown on political dissent as it virtually bans the act of political demonstration. Among prisoners on hunger strike are activists convicted or charged with participating in unauthorized protests including Ahmed Douma, Mahinour al-Masry, Mohamed Abdel Rahman and Sanaa Seif.
Far from responding to legitimate prisoner demands, prison administrations seek to convince hunger strikers to suspend their protest either through persuasion or coercion, and with rare exceptions fail to provide adequate or ethical medical care.
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