Time on Death Row- Degrading Treatment

On 10 October, 2018, the World Day Against the Death Penalty will focus on the living conditions of those sentenced to death.

WHAT IS  “DEATH ROW”

Death row refers to the prison area where inmates sentenced to death are detained. Prisoners are considered to be on death row from the moment they have been sentenced to death for a capital crime in the first instance, until their execution, commutation or release if they have been acquitted, including during the appeal period.

Death row is typically characterised by these three factors:

  1. Harsh conditions of detention
  2. The excessive length of incarceration
  3. The anguish of living under a death sentence

The typical Egypt death row inmates usually spend their time: isolated from the general prison population and held in solitary confinement size of 1.5mx2m, without a toilet or adequate lighting or ventilation. They are only allowed out of the cell for 15 minutes a day to ‘walk’ and to empty the bucket they use as a toilet,  they spend as much as 23 hours and 45 minutes a day alone in their cell in a state of constant uncertainty over when they will be executed.

ٍThere are no official figures of how many people are currently on death row in Egypt and estimates, based on some official announcements, media reports and testimonies can vary widely. According to one estimate by to The Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide estimate, at least 2,000 individuals were on death row in Egypt in 2017.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO ADDRESS THIS ANGLE ASSOCIATED WITH THE DEATH PENALTY

Inmates sentenced to death are usually exposed to the same environment as the general prison population, but their conditions of detention are worse, they are often victims of serious human rights violation and in many cases, these violations receive little, to no, exposure or access due to the lack of visibility for inmates on death row.

Therefore,in addressing the patterns of violations associated with death sentences, one of the angles associated with this punishment is the daily treatment and living conditions imposed on prisoners waiting for the execution of the sentence. Regardless of the prospect of execution, the imprisonment of those sentenced to death in itself inflicts considerable physical and psychological harm.

Some of the “Basic Rights” of Prisoners Under International and Regional Standards

According to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela rules), Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights , Article 5 and Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, and Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

1. Freedom from torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;

2. Respect for prisoners’ dignity and value as human beings;

3. Necessary medical care, including treatment for mental health issues;

4. Food of proper nutritional value and drinking water;

5. Clean and adequate living conditions, including sleeping and bathroom accommodations;

6. Access to open air and physical exercise;

7. Adequate personal space;

8. Access to educational and vocational activities;

9. Regular contact with friends and family;

10. Access to legal counsel.

In Egypt as well as in many other jurisdictions, many of those basic prisoners’ right are frequently violated for prisoners on death row.


"A DEATH BEFORE DYING" Case studies from Egypt

Abu al Qasim Ahmed Ali Yousef, case no.1300/2016 Cairo Felonies, Known in the media as the “Assassination of the Public Prosecutor” case

  • Date of referral to the Grand Mufti by the Cairo Criminal Court: June 17, 2017
  • Date of sentencing by the Cairo Criminal Court July 22, 2017
  • Date set for the final verdict of the Cassation Court : November 25, 2018


"I’m suffering psychological damage because my health can’t tolerate prison, especially since Scorpion Prison isn’t fit for human beings. Once I passed out in solitary confinement because I have high blood pressure and low calcium and need to follow a specific nutritional plan which is unavailable in prison."


Gamil Khamis Saad, Mohammed Youssef Abdulilah, and Mohammed Khaled Abd al-Ati  case no.2001 for the year 2015/Damanhour Felonies known as the case of “Shooting at Abu al Matamir Police Station”

  • Date of referral to the Grand Mufti by the Criminal Court  : May 18, 2017
  • Date the Damanhour Criminal Court sentenced eight defendants to death including the three defendants : July 17, 2017

According to the families of the three imprisoned men, the prison administration conducted a search on November 2nd 2017, during which they stripped the defendants of all their belongings, including extra underclothes and canned food, and then beat and insulted them and shaved their heads, for no apparent reason.

The families also complained that the prison administration harasses them during visits, making them wait more than 90 minutes to see their family members for no more 15 minutes each month, whereas visits are supposed to last one hour.

(A message written on a napkin by Mohammed Youssef and Gamil Khamis, death row inmates at al-Abaadiya Prison)


Fadl El Mawla Husni Ahmed Ismaeel, case no.27868 of 2014, Montaza criminal Alexandria-Egypt, known in the media as the case of “ “the violent events of Al-Montazah”.

  • Date of arrest :August 15, 2013
  • Date of referral to the Grand Mufti by Criminal Court: April 6 , 2016
  • Date of death sentence issued by the Cairo Criminal Court: June 5, 2016
  • Date of final verdict by the Cassation Court : March 3, 2018

Mrs Safaa Morsy is Fadl El Mawla’s husband claims her husband is detained in cramped conditions without proper medical care.

"He is in the Execution Cell but it really shouldn't be called that. They should rename it to the Death Cell, It's like a cemetery. About a metre-and-a-half by three metres, with three people or solitary confinement, always underground. It has a small window with little to no light coming in and no toilet, save for a bucket," Mrs Morsy says.

 

Lotfi Ibrahim Ismail Khalil , case no.22 for the year 2015/Tanta Military Felonies, known in the media as the case of “Bombing Kafr El Sheikh Stadium”.

  • Date of arrest : April 2015
  • Date of referral to the Grand Mufti by the Military Court in Alexandria: February 1, 2016
  • Date death sentence was issued by the Military Court in Alexandria: March 2, 2016
  • Date the Supreme Military Court of Appeals upheld the sentence: June 19, 2017
  • Execution day:January 2, 2018. he was 23 years old


Lotfy’s father Ismail received the news his son would be hanged within hours, “Even death they snatched away from us.” Lotfy’s father says.

"As soon as I walked in I saw two people from his case who were executed and Lotfy wrapped in a blanket," he says, visibly emotional as he describes the harrowing scene."I kissed his forehead, then the other people I knew, going from one corpse to the next, crying and kissing their heads and feet."