The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) called on the Ministry of Interior and the Prisons Authority to assume their legal responsibility in providing the simplest forms of human contact in light of the continued suspension of visits for prisoners’ families, consistent with the rights stipulated in the Prison Regulation Law. EIPR demands that the ministry and the Prisons Authority allow detainees and prisoners to communicate with their families and lawyers on a regular basis by telephone at least in order to assure them of their health and inform them of any changes that may occur to the place and conditions of their detention.
Additionally, EIPR also calls upon the Prison Authority to expand the measures taken to ensure the physical and psychological safety of prisoners, prison staff and places of detention in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic crisis.
There has been recurring reports of emerging Covid-19 cases among the prisoners inside Tora prison – in relation to which no official statements were issued to deny or confirm while providing clarification of the measures taken . Reports and rumours also mentioned that some prisoners were transferred to places of quarantine outside Tora prison, still with no official response.
Since March 10, that is, more than three months ago, the Ministry of Interior issued a decision suspending all visitations in places of detention as part of a series of measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis.
Family visits are practically the only way to check on individuals and provide them with the minimum amount of food and medication needed in light of the lack of proper food and nourishment in most places of detention, and to alleviate their suffering from the scarcity of human contact in the case of detainees held in solitary confinement. Visits also allow prisoners and remand detainees to be informed of updates on the current affairs in case books, newspapers and other means of information were denied to them, which has become the accepted reality in many cases of detention.
Despite the decision on phased return to operations in the courts and various government sectors in the past month, the resumption of visits was not alluded to in any of the recent ministerial decisions. This is compounded by the fact that no suitable alternatives to physical contact were provided throughout this period, whether through one of the electronic and digital means of communication or by correspondence through writing and/or telephone as stipulated in article 38 of the Prison Regulation Law. Article 38 of the law stipulates that “subject to the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, every convicted person has the right to correspondence, and telephone communication (…)” “” (…) and for a remand prisoner the same right unless a decision stating otherwise, is issued from the competent Public Prosecution Office or the competent investigative judge. “