Social Protection for Prisoners: The Egyptian Experience
– The Egyptian state is subjected from time to time to a campaign of criticism and distortion by Western media and human rights organizations that deliberately ignore the state’s efforts to make progress in various fields, especially the field of human rights. False reports are issued aimed at undermining the security of the country and questioning any achievement achieved by the state. However, the state is on its way to construction and development, deriving its strength from the cohesion of its people and their standing together behind their conscious political leadership.
– even The one who is familiar with such reports, which lacks the simplest rules of professionalism and objectivity, discovers the falsehood of the information, data and numbers that are not relevant to the truth. It is not the first time, and it will not be the last, in which criticism of the human rights file in Egypt has been directed in order to discredit its reputation before the international community. Although the human rights file is an internal affair that is not affected by any external pressure, it is necessary to refute these allegations and to monitor all efforts made by the state to protect and promote human rights, in a manner befitting the status of Egypt and the aspirations of its people who carried out two revolutions in 2011 and 2013 to uphold the values of freedom, dignity, human and social justice.
– Among the allegations contained in the reports of some Western media and biased human rights organizations, the widespread use of the death penalty, the increase in enforced disappearances, as well as the ill-treatment of prisoners and the consideration of the recent release of prisoners as “exceptional” processes and that thousands of political prisoners are still behind bars. Through this report, we refute these suspicious allegations.
1-the death penalty
-The Egyptian legislator has established the death penalty for a number of offences which it deemed to be extremely dangerous and grave. The legislator used this punishment in four laws in Egypt: the Penal Code, the Anti-Drugs Law, the Military Judgments Law, and the Weapons and Ammunition Law.
-In the Penal Code, The Egyptian legislator decided the death penalty for a range of crimes, and among these crimes are what harms the security of the state from the outside (Articles 77 and beyond from the Penal Code), and some of them harm the security of the state from the inside (Articles 86 and beyond penalties), including What harms the security of the people.
-Egypt’s law also requires several guarantees for the death penalty ruling that reduce any possibilities of error : The death sentence must be pronounced unanimously by the Court (not by a majority of the members of the Court)and The opinion of the Mufti of the Republic must be taken (the judgement shall be invalidated if the Court renders it without taking the opinion of the mufti), and The case must be brought before the Court of Cassation to exercise its control over all elements of the judgement, whether substantive or formal, whereby the case papers are examined from its inception and reviewing the minutes of the sessions of the criminal court, including medical reports, examinations and statements of witnesses, examining the evidence and all that was contained in the papers, and ruling on its own initiative to overturn the judgment in any case of error in the law or invalidity, and if the Court of Cassation decides to overturn the judgment and re-trial again and the Court of Retrial considers The death sentence for the second time, it must also follow those procedures again, which is to take the opinion of the Mufti and issue the ruling by consensus.
– It should be noted that there are other guarantees established by the legislator for death sentences, according to Article 46 of the Law on Cases and Procedure of Cassation 57 of 1959, which included that if the judgment was issued for the death penalty in the presence of the accused, the Public Prosecution must submit the case to the Court of Cassation with its opinion in the judgment, and that Within the legally prescribed time, “sixty days.” And here the legislator considers that the death sentences handed down in his presence should be brought before the Court of Cassation without dependence on the appeal of them by the parties to the criminal case, due to the gravity of the death penalty and the keenness that the sentence conforms to the law and reality. The Public Prosecution Office presents the judgment to cassation, even if the judgment in its view is not appealed.
– Another guarantee is that the President of the Republic must ratify any death sentence issued by a court, whether military or civil, when the sentence becomes final and all means of appeal have been exhausted (it was supported by the Court of Cassation), where the Minister of Justice submits it to the President of the Republic for ratification, and the sentence is executed if The order was not issued completely pardoning the penalty or commuting the penalty within 14 days.
– Finally, after all these safeguards and controls established by the legislator in view of the gravity of the death penalty, malicious media and human rights organizations allege that death sentences are carried out on a large scale, forgetting the full commitment of the judicial authorities to the rule of law, and providing full guarantees for any accused to exercise his right to defend himself, and other Procedures are to be followed.
– Accordingly, such media platforms have deviated from the standards of objectivity and professionalism when making these allegations, which are considered an unacceptable transgression against the Egyptian judicial system and those in charge of it.
2-Increase in enforced disappearances
– it should be noted that during the events of January 2011 there were cases of disappearance of a limited number of individuals, and those numbers increased during the the country’s protests in 2012 and 2013, but the reports and communications submitted since 2014 until now are characterized by a significant lack of information, starting with the names of the alleged perpetrators of their disappearance, the exact circumstances or timing of the disappearance, or the parties allegedly committed this crime.
– Despite the lack of seriousness of doubts about the validity of many of these allegations, the National Council for Human Rights was keen to verify all complaints received about enforced disappearance, stressing that most of the cases were either presented to the Public Prosecution and imprisoned or emigrated abroad and joined terrorist organizations.
– The Ministry of Interior has repeatedly denied the existence of enforced disappearances and confirmed that only prisoners or detainees are under detention by a decision of the Public Prosecution pending cases in preparation for presenting them to trial or releasing them, and that perhaps among those alleged for their enforced disappearance are elements who left the country to join terrorist organizations in several Arab and foreign countries, or fugitive elements who are wanted for arrest in implementation of the Public Prosecution’s decision.
– And regarding the allegations of the enforced disappearance of the researcher, “Ayman Hodhoud” before his death, all responsible authorities denied this claim, including the National Council for Human Rights, which confirmed in an official statement that the Council’s Complaints and Monitoring Committee had not received any complaints from any of his relatives that he had been subjected to enforced disappearance.
3- ill-treatment of prisoners
– Western media and some human rights organizations, in their politicized reports, deliberately promote the existence of human rights violations inside Egyptian prisons, considering the recent release of prisoners as “exceptional” operations and that thousands of “political prisoners” are still behind bars, which is beyond reasonable and exceeds the right and sovereignty of Egypt on its territory. These and other reports did not provide logical evidence confirming the validity of what is being published on the websites, nor did they indicate the extent of efforts and achievements made on the ground with the aim of creating a life and dignified treatment for all Egyptians, especially the “prisoners”.
The Egyptian state’s efforts to protect the rights of prisoners
-Those reports ignored that Egypt was among the highest in ratifying the 18 international human rights conventions, in addition to that Egypt participated in preparing and drafting the Global Charter on Human Rights in 1948, and the International Covenant on Rights Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights.
-Since the inception of the United Nations ,Egypt has also actively participated in all its human rights bodies, whether those based on the Charter of the United Nations or on the ten basic international human rights treaties, in addition to Egypt’s participation in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism (The Universal Periodic Review) UPR since its establishment by the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2006.
-The 2014 constitution, which is considered the most advanced in the history of Egyptian constitutions in the field of human rights and freedoms, allocates more than 125 articles that are translated into legal texts applied through the policies adopted by the State to affirm human rights in the areas of private and public freedoms, politics and sociology and economics, and Criminalization of violation of human dignity, torture and discrimination, and emphasizing all freedoms of expression, publication, creativity, belief, movement, property, work, strike and the rule of law. The state’s efforts in this context can be monitored through the following axes:
4-National Strategy for Human Rights regulates the treatment of prisoners and detainees
-National Strategy for Human Rights, launched by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in September 2021, laid down controls and plans for dealing with prisoners and other detainees – which are not highlighted in such malicious reports – and came as follows:
1-.It recommended the members of the Public Prosecution Office to supervise and inspect prisons, places of detention, in addition to accepting prisoners’ complaints, and examining all prison papers and records.
2- Emphasizing the continuation of development and modernization of prisons facilities and the establishment of new prisons to reduce the density within the framework of continuous improvement in the standard of living and health care of prisoners.
3- It called for the expansion of the establishment of literacy classes and the religious and cultural seminars for prison inmates in coordination with the Ministry of Endowments and the General Authority for Cultural Palaces to develop the religious and cultural aspect of the inmates.
4- it emphasized the importance of involving civil society organizations, the private sector, and government agencies in the reintegration of the released prisoners into society and providing the necessary support to them and their families.
Amendment to Prisons’ Law
-The politicized and selective reports did not address the parliament’s approval in March 2022 of a draft law submitted by the government to amend some provisions of Law No. 396 of 1956 regarding the organization of prisons, within the framework of the state’s plan to develop penal institutions in terms of their names, buildings, and management in a way that aims to consolidating the values and principles of the rights of the prisoners, to provide them with societal protection, rehabilitate and integration into society, and benefit from their rehabilitation in development programs and plans by supporting the educational rights of the prisoners by completing their studies for those who have the desire and taking the exams set for them within the public reform and rehabilitation centers.
– the Amendment to Prisons’ Law comes within the framework of strengthening the concepts of human rights established by the State on 30 June, which has integrated human rights into the development process. This legislation reflects the penal institutions’ adoption of a new philosophy based on transforming traditional places of detention into exemplary places to rehabilitate prisoners in terms of the entitlement of convicts not to be punished twice for their crime, and thus aims to convert prisoners’ sentences into their period of investment in human beings.
-The opening of the correction and rehabilitation centers in Wadi al-Natrun and Badr City confirms the state’s seriousness in protecting prisoners’ rights and its keenness to reform the penal system.
-Rehabilitation and reform centers have become suitable places of detention, providing projects and handicrafts and providing education and literacy for inmates. The two centers have been built according to the finest architectural systems and the use of modern technology.
-The Human Rights Council of Egypt emphasizes that these correctional centres are part of a gradual process of closing old prisons and building modern correction and rehabilitation centres that conform to international standards. The opening of these centres constitutes the first stage in the process of comprehensive change of the concept of penal institutions in Egypt.
-It should also be noted that there are continuous visits by human rights delegations, representatives of foreign agencies and international newspapers to Egyptian prisons, in coordination with the community protection sector, to monitor the conditions of prisoners and inspect aspects of care provided to them. These visits come in an attempt by the Ministry of Interior to respond to the allegations and skepticism campaigns that are issued by some Western media outlets against the situation of prisoners in Egypt.
5- Activation of the Presidential Pardon
-In the”Egyptian family Iftar “on April 26 2022, the president Sisi reactivated the ‘Presidential Pardon Committee’ which was formed as one of the outcomes of the National Youth conference in 2016, as it will expand its cooperation with the competent agencies and civil society.
-The re-activated committee communicated with various political parties and forces and prepared an urgent list of prisoners proposed for release, announcing that no one would be excluded except those whose killed the Egyptians, or those accused in cases of corruption, sabotage and violence against the sons and people of Egypt, provided that it expands its work base in cooperation with the competent agencies and organizations concerned civil society.
-the Ministry of the Interior announced the release of 46,000 prisoners under a presidential pardon during the period from 2014 to 2018, and 54,000 prisoners were released during the same period by the pardon of the police, and the number of prisoners released, whether by presidential or police pardon, in 2019 was 34,490 prisoners.
-in 2020 and 2021, more than 45,000 prisoners were released on various occasions and holidays, and in 2022, a presidential pardon was granted to 3,273 prisoners.
6- The president’s initiative “Prisons without debtors”
-The initiative was established under the direction of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in 2018, and” the Long Live Egypt” Fund paid special attention to this issue, working on: social support, health care, economic empowerment, and education and training support for those groups most in need.
-Nearly 42million pounds have been allocated to implement this initiative, in addition to the release of 6,400 cases from various prisons until 2019.
National Committee for the Welfare of Debtors
The committee was formed upon the assignment of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi amid concerns to emphasize the governance of debt repayment, and to take preventive measures to protect citizens who are unable to borrow.
The committee also aims to unify the efforts of civil and religious associations working to pay off the debts, and to prepare awareness campaigns to promote a culture of rational consumption.
On April 17 2022, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi directed the government to make a list of debtors in prisons and the provision of complete databases about them that include their geographical distribution and the reasons for the fine to determine the beneficiaries and the provision of safe mechanisms for debt, which reflects the state’s determination to find a radical solution to this phenomenon.
7- Projects and initiatives to support and protect prisoners’ families
-The Ministry of Social Solidarity attaches special importance to caring for the families of prison inmates and the released with the aim of helping them to face their economic and social problems, as well as the aftercare of the released in order to help them financially and morally to restore their status and integrate into the community framework, as well as reduce any criminal danger they may pose to the surrounding community.
-In this context, the Ministry of Social Solidarity is implementing a project to support and protect families at risk “SANAD”, which aims to provide psychological support, social rehabilitation and economic empowerment for the families of prisoners and those released with a presidential pardon through financing small or micro projects with large credit facilities.
-The “Sanad” project provides prisoners’ families with health services, in addition to exempting children from school expenses and giving them priority in obtaining cash support from the “Takafel and Karama” program implemented by the Ministry of Solidarity since 2015.
-in addition, many initiatives have been launched that enable the family to find a suitable income for it that protects it from falling into debt, such as the “Dokan Al Farha” initiative to equip the first girls with care, and lift the burden on their mothers, and the “Mastoura” program for single women and girls from the age of 21 to 60 years, where financing programs are provided to women through Nasser Social Bank to establish small projects that contribute to transforming them from receiving support, into an effective component and productive energy.