Egypt: building Egypt’s expansive and oppressive prison system

A new report from the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reveals how Egypt built dozens of jails since the January 2011 revolution to keep thousands of prisoners, including roughly 65,000 prisoners of conscience, behind bars.

The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said in a report, that the massive expansion of prison construction in Egypt – as the number of prisons established since the January 2011 Revolution has reached 35 – hasn’t contributed to improving the prisoners’ conditions. This is because the state recruits mainstream media, which has come under its control, to convey a fake and polished image about the situation in prisons, while, in fact, they are rife with brutal violations and extremely harsh conditions.

The report, entitled “Waiting for you; 78 prisons, including 35 built after the January Revolution: On the difficult conditions of prisoners and prisons in Egypt”, introduces a list of the new prisons (17 prisons) which were established during the period from September 2016 to March 2021; in addition to the 18 prisons established since the January revolution till the release of ANHRI’s previous report on prisons, published in September 2016 under the title “There is Room for Everyone”. That report had included a list of 19 prisons that had been built. The Ministry of Interior withdrew from building Al-Obour prison (among this list), so the number went down to 18, bringing the total number of new prisons that have been established in Egypt during the decade that followed the January Revolution to 35.

The report entails examples of the violations practiced against prisoners, especially those who are calling for democracy and belong to the January Revolution, as well as the encroachments on their legally granted rights, such as: using pretrial detention as a punishment, preventing the entry of food for prisoners, solitary confinement, rotation/recycling of defendants (extending their detention over new cases), deprivation of the right to make a phone call, and financially profiting from prisoners.

The report also includes ANHRI’s estimates of the number of prisoners and detainees held in Egypt; as it estimated the number amounted to about 120,000 prisoners and pretrial detainees, which is fairly close to the estimate provided by one of the security services-backed media professionals regarding the number of pretrial detainees and political prisoners.