A life in Danger
Medical neglect of Aboul-Fotouh a prolonged death sentence as political retaliation
The undersigned rights organizations strongly condemn the practice of intentional medical neglect in Egyptian prisons and detention facilities. The medical neglect of Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul –Fotouh, the head of the opposition party Strong Egypt, is just one of many cases amounting to a slow death sentence, a further escalation in reprisals against political dissidents. Although Aboul-Fotouh has suffered from four heart attacks in less than three months, the Tora Prison administration refuses to transfer him to a hospital for treatment. Prison authorities instead insist on holding Aboul-Fotouh in solitary confinement, isolating him in a cramped cell falling short of minimum humanitarian standards, in shameless disregard for his age (67) and deteriorating health.
The medical neglect of Aboul-Fotouh is a shamefully evident example of indirect torture in Egyptian prisons, constituting yet another attempt to intimidate Egyptian activists and dissidents. Aboul-Fotouh’s case is likely meant to act as a warning particularly to older and infirm opposition figures, as it represents the threat not only of imprisonment but also of a slow death behind bars. There have been 59 cases of medical neglect in Egyptian prisons in just the first three months of 2018, according to information collected from press reports by the Nadeem Center. Despite repeated objections and appeals to the competent authorities in several cases, these prisoners have not received medical care.
On May 5, 2018, Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh suffered from a heart attack for the fourth time since his incarceration, the worst yet according to his family. Despite the urgency of his condition, the prison administration did not immediately transfer him to intensive care for the necessary medical tests and treatment. According to his family, a memorandum was submitted to the National Council for Human Rights on April 22, which detailed all violations against Aboul-Fotouh in contravention of the Egyptian Constitution and law. It explained, in full, the inhumane conditions of his imprisonment and the prison administration’s refusal to grant him his legal rights. The memo also included copies of all requests and medical reports submitted to the prosecution regarding his health and his need for urgent medical care. The memorandum and the complaint have thus far brought no change.
The undersigned organizations believe that the medical neglect of political prisoners is an intentional form of abuse and indirect torture. According to former political prisoner Mohamed Soltan, during his hunger strike and stay in the prison hospital, the guards encouraged him to kill himself. A senior prison official once told him, “Relieve us and you of this headache.” Soltan also relayed how the prison authorities locked a sick prisoner in Soltan’s room and left him there to die, with no attempt to save him. The objective seems to have been to warn Soltan of a similar fate.
The Egyptian authorities arrested Aboul-Fotouh on February 14, 2018 in the run-up to the presidential election. The prosecution leveled several politicized, fabricated charges against him, including leading a terrorist group and publishing false news likely to destabilize the state. Since then, Aboul-Fotouh has been brought before the prosecution ten times. Each time, he has asked the prosecutor to transfer him to a hospital and put him before a specialized medical committee, but to no avail.
For over 75 days, Aboul-Fotouh has been held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a six-meter cell. The conditions of his imprisonment are grotesquely inhumane; prison authorities deny him even the opportunity to briefly exercise in open air. According to statements from his son and lawyers, he is only permitted to walk in front of his cell between the closed cellblocks, isolated from officers and other prisoners. His attorneys have noted the absurd nature of official interrogations; for example, he was questioned about his activities when he was a university student in the 1970s. He was also requested to “Tell us about yourself” despite his four-decade history of public service. We believe these sham interrogations are yet another way of harassing Aboul-Fotouh and prolonging his incarceration.
Aboul-Fotouh, Hisham Gaafar, Mahmoud Khodeiri, and Mahdi Akef, an elderly detainee who died in prison, are among many Egyptian citizens who have suffered from medical neglect. The undersigned organizations affirm that this inhumane practice is indicative of the current government’s ethical vacuity and its frequent recourse to harassment, torture, and killing as retaliation against its political foes, who have already suffered from numerous violations during their arrests and trials under the pretext of fabricated and farcical charges. We hold the Interior Minister, the Public Prosecutor, and the President responsible for the lives of Aboul-Fotouh and other prisoners imperiled by medical neglect.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO)
Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies (AITAS)
Hisham Mubarak Law Center