The international rights group urged Egyptian authorities in a statement on Wednesday to investigate allegations of torture and other abuses against prisoners at al-Aqrab jail, located on the outskirts of the capital, Cairo, where an estimated 130 detainees have been on hunger strike for more than six weeks.
The detention facility, whose name translates as Scorpion in English, has been holding a total of about 1,000 political detainees following Cairo’s sweeping crackdown on dissent in recent years.
The detainees at al-Aqrab prison, while being subjected to a range of physical and verbal abuses, are deprived of their basic rights such as family visits, medical care, and legal consultation, according to the Amnesty report.
“The harsh and inhumane conditions of detention and deprivation of family visits as well as preventing detainees from communicating with their lawyers, for more than two years in some cases, have created an unbearable situation for the detainees,” said Magdalena Magrabi, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa regional office.
Amnesty also said in its report that the prisoners were being held in overcrowded cells infested with mosquitoes, flies, and other insects, with temperatures of more than 40 degrees Celsius in the summer, without any fans or appropriate ventilation.
“There can be no justification for the cruel and inhuman treatment of these detainees. The Egyptian authorities must urgently ensure that all persons in their custody receive adequate medical care and food and be held prisoners in healthy conditions and well-ventilated cells following the international law,” Magrabi said.
Egyptian human rights groups have also rebuked the practices by the authorities against the detainees at al-Aqrab, accusing the government of being engaged in “deliberate human rights abuses.”
“Egypt is steadily becoming a dictatorship and engages in systematic torture of prisoners,” said Mahmoud Gaber, the head of Istanbul-based human rights group Adalah.
“Egypt is no longer a country that respects the law or the constitution. We as an organization demand the government to respect the rule of law and end its arbitrary justice system,” he added.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has repeatedly denied allegations of rights abuses in his country.
In an interview with US television network CBS in January, Sisi even claimed there were no political prisoners in Egypt.
Sisi has faced international condemnation for a crackdown on civil society groups since he took power in 2014, a year after a military coup spearheaded by him toppled the country’s first-ever democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi.
After his ouster, Morsi began serving a 20-year prison term on charges of ordering the arrest and torture of protesters, a 25-year jail term on charges of passing intelligence to Qatar, and a three-year term for insulting the judiciary.
The 67-year-old passed away during a trial court session in Cairo in June.