Watchdog accuses Egypt of ‘collective punishment’ of inmates

BEIRUT (AFP) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Egypt yesterday of imposing punitive conditions on hundreds of inmates at one of its most notorious prisons in collective punishment for a foiled escape attempt.

The New York-based watchdog said evidence including a leaked video and a smuggled letter showed authorities had deliberately exacerbated already poor conditions at Cairo’s Scorpion Prison, where many political prisoners are held.

“Egyptian authorities are apparently imposing collective punishment on hundreds of inmates in Scorpion Prison,” said HRW’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Joe Stork.

The Interior Ministry has said three policemen were killed in September’s abortive jail break, four death row inmates shot dead.

HRW said new measures imposed since the attempt almost “deprive inmates of adequate ventilation, electricity, and hot water”.

“Because of the absence of sufficient natural light… the lack of humane sleeping and sanitation arrangements… as well as inadequate floor space, artificial lighting and proper ventilation, the Scorpion Prison inherently violates the basic rights of prisoners,” it said.

The prison houses extremist leaders and other high-profile dissidents. Since 2015, at least 14 inmates have died in its overcrowded cell blocks, human rights groups said.