Proposed Amendments to Prisons’ Law Fall Short of Expectation
The Ministry of Interior’s proposed changes to prisons’ legislation, according to state media, are disappointing and far off from meeting Egyptian constitutional guarantees and the UN minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners, said the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) in a commentary released Wednesday.
Torture, inhumane treatment and worsening living conditions are all recurring themes in testimonies collected by EIPR in recent months. EIPR is particularly concerned by serious indications that show an alarming escalation in the excessive use of force, brutality, beatings, verbal abuse and other forms of cruel and degrading treatment or punishment for prisoners by law enforcement officials in a climate of entrenched impunity. Testimonies also point to the authorities’ failure to meet the basic needs of prison inmates in regards to nutrition, hygiene, healthcare and contact with the outside world.
As such, there is an urgent need to overhaul all existing laws, protocols and procedures governing the administration of prisons in Egypt. However, the recent proposed amendments are more cosmetic than substantive amid a lack of transparency and failure to consult with relevant stakeholders including human rights organizations and former prisoners. EIPR calls on the Ministry of Interior to ensure transparency by conducting an effective social dialog, and to strive to meet Egypt’s constitutional guarantees and international obligations.
The National Council of Human Rights (NCHR) had announced meetings with officials from the Ministry of Interior’s Prisons Sector, Human Rights Sector, and Legal Affairs. In response, EIPR sent an official letter to NCHR requesting the publication of the proposed changes to enable effective consultation. Despite NCHR’s response acknowledging the letter, the request was not heeded. EIPR was surprised and disappointed by the news reported on the 14th of September, indicating that a draft law has already been approved by the Legislation Department of the State Council in preparation for its adoption without the required inclusion of the necessary changes to guarantee the rights of prisoners in line with the constitutional and international standards.
While the published proposed amendments introduce incremental improvements to the current Law on Prisons’ Procedures, they fail to address major concerns and shortcomings in current legislation or respond to recurrent calls by human rights organizations to allow for independent monitoring of detention facilities and to introduce mechanisms to allow prisoners to lodge complaints with independent and impartial bodies.