Human Rights Watch released a statement Monday announcing suspected Covid-19 outbreaks in recent weeks in Egyptian prisons and police stations.
Leaked letters, witness accounts, and credible reports from local rights groups and media indicated 129 suspected cases, 64 positive cases, and 14 deaths from Covid-19 complications. Overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and limited resources and medical care have turned these prisons and police stations into a hotbed for the pandemic.
Most inmates rely on families to deliver disinfectants or medicines, according to accounts. At the Minya Maximum Security Prison, a letter smuggled out by two inmates highlighted a great number of prisoners with Covid-19 symptoms, but an absence of sufficient care. Water cuts were routine and lasted up to 20 hours at a time. Those who objected to their conditions were severely punished. Punishments could include beatings, transfers, or the confiscation of necessary hygiene products.
These revelations affirm longstanding concerns about conditions in Egypt’s prisons. In April, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Egypt to release those convicted of non-violent offenses and held in pre-trial detention. “Egypt’s prisons and detention facilities are often overcrowded, unsanitary, and suffer from a lack of resources,” the statement read. “Detainees are routinely denied access to adequate medical care and treatment.”