Rights groups: release Ibrahim Metwally immediately and stop using Aqrab Prison to abuse detainees

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The undersigned organizations demand the immediate release of Ibrahim Abd al-Moneim Metwally, age 53. Metwally is a lawyer who helped found the League for  the “Families of the Disappeared”  while searching for his son Amr, who was disappeared four years ago. Metwally appeared in front of the State Security Prosecution yesterday, which ordered a renewal of his arbitrary detention order for another 15 days.  

Metwally was arrested at the Cairo airport on September 10 as he was on his way to Geneva to participate in the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Council. He had prepared a complete file on enforced disappearance in Egypt, which was to be presented to the international working group examining the issue. Metwally himself was disappeared for three days following his arrest at the airport. He reappeared on September 12 at the National Security headquarters in Fifth Settlement after he enforced disappearance at the National Security headquarters in Abbasiya, where he was tortured during questioning and later after he was placed in pretrial detention in a maximum-security wing of Tora Prison, known as Aqrab Prison.

The undersigned organizations condemn the use of the Aqrab facility as a place to hold and abuse its inmates, as the prison is  known to be  a site of collective punishment. Although it was established as a prison for dangerous offenders, numerous people detained in connection with political cases are held in the prison, and it is notorious for its systematic violation of prisoners’ rights and inhumane conditions. For this reason, during his subsequent hearing at the National Security premises at Abbasiya on October 9th, Metwally accused the prison administration of attempting to slowly kill him.

According to his defense lawyers, Metwally was placed in a filthy cell with a toilet unfit for human use; the electricity in the cell was cut and the window—the sole source of light—was closed; the cell was then flooded with water. In addition, the prison administration was denied entry to any personal hygiene products or underclothes. As a result, on September 20 during the hearing when Metwally’s detention order was renewed for a second time, he appeared before the prosecution in dirty clothes under which he was wearing no underwear. After filing a complaint with the prosecution regarding the poor conditions, Metwally was transferred to another cell. Although it was slightly better than the previous one, the prison administration continued to prevent him from leaving his cell throughout the day. This is an exceptional measure , as other prisoners are allowed limited periods of leaving their cells to move and walk throughout the day, thereby indicating the prison administration’s particular and exceptional targeting of Metwally.

Ibrahim Metwally is not the first person to be detained in Aqrab Prison in connection with a human rights or political case. Other activists and rights advocates have also been held in the prison, including the journalist Hisham Gaafar  who is the managing director for the organization Mada Foundation for Media Development and has been detained since  November 2015 without being charged or tried.

The undersigned organizations thereby reiterates that housing Ibrahim Metwally in Aqrab Prison is unacceptable, since he is not among the dangerous offenders designated by the prison’s establishment decree. Metwally’s conditions also violate the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 17, 2015.

The undersigned organizations demand:

  • Close Tora Maximum Security Prison (known as Aqrab), investigate violations against prisoners held in the facility, and transfer its inmates to other prisons.
  • Take action to bring prisons in compliance with compulsory conditions for detention facilities as elaborated by the Nelson Mandela Rules, among them:
    • All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating and ventilation.
    • The windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read or work by natural light and shall be so constructed that they can allow the entrance of fresh air whether or not there is artificial ventilation.
    • Artificial light shall be provided sufficient for the prisoners to read or work without injury to eyesight.
    • The sanitary installations shall be adequate to enable every prisoner to comply with the needs of nature when necessary and in a clean and decent manner.
    • Adequate bathing and shower installations shall be provided so that every prisoner can, and may be required to, have a bath or shower, at a temperature suitable to the climate, as frequently as necessary for general hygiene according to season and geographical region, but at least once a week in a temperate climate.
    • All parts of a prison regularly used by prisoners shall be properly maintained and kept scrupulously clean at all times.

Signing Organizations:

Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence

Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)

Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)

Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA)

Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR)