Civil rights sedating violent prisoners
Many inmates have been handed multiple long sentences by criminal courts and remain detained pending appeals that typically last for years.
By the 2000s, this conflict had ebbed, and the authorities released thousands who had been held for years without trial. Set within the Tora Prisons Area, a government compound on the Nile River at the southern edge of Cairo, Scorpion sits at the end of the state’s repressive pipeline, overseen at nearly all points by the Interior Ministry and its internal security service, the National Security Agency (Qata` al-Amn al-Watani).
In scores of cases documented by Human Rights Watch, those deemed opponents of the government are investigated and arrested by National Security agents, tortured into confessions by those agents during periods of forced disappearance that can last for weeks or months, and then put on trial while being held, in near isolation without meaningful access to a lawyer, in prisons where National Security officers hold sway.
This report, based on 23 interviews with relatives of inmates, lawyers, and a former prisoner, documents abusive conditions in Scorpion.
Authorities there have banned inmates from contacting their families or lawyers for months at a time, held them in degrading conditions without beds, mattresses, or basic hygienic items, humiliated, beaten, and confined them for weeks in cramped “discipline” cells – treatment that probably amounted to torture in some cases – and interfered with their medical care in ways that may have contributed to some of their deaths.
Staff at Scorpion Prison beat inmates severely, isolate them in cramped “discipline” cells, cut off access to families and lawyers, and interfere with medical treatment, according to the 80-page report, “‘We Are in Tombs’: Abuses in Egypt’s Scorpion Prison.” The report documents cruel and inhuman treatment by officers of Egypt’s Interior Ministry that probably amounts to torture in some cases and violates basic international norms for the treatment of prisoners.