Hundreds of schoolchildren illegally detained in squalid Egyptian prison

Human rights organisation claims the boys, aged between 14 and 17, are being held in dangerous and dirty conditions and denied their rights

Rose Troup Buchanan
Friday 19 December 2014 15:06
An Egyptian guard outside a court earlier this year
An Egyptian guard outside a court earlier this year

Hundreds children are being held in an Egyptian prison without access to clean water, sunlight or medical care, according to a human rights organisation.

El Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence claims that around 600 boys, aged between 14 and 17, are being held at a detention centre in Banha, north of Cairo.

Halim Heneish, a lawyer for the Egyptian organisation, has met with the parents of some of the imprisoned boys and claimed that the boys had been kept in darkened cells and prevented from accessing legal or medical aid.

“It’s not legal to keep them there. According to Egyptian law, minors should be kept in juvenile detention,” Mr Heneish told The Times.

According to the El Nadeem’s report, many of the boys have been denied medical attention.

Mostafa Osama Mohie El-Din, 17, who was shot in the eye, has been detained since September. Another 17-year-old boy, Ahmed Sayed Youssef, has been imprisoned in the same facility since February – and according to the Centre’s information is suffering from a broken leg.

Islma Salah, also 17, has been imprisoned since August – and his mother told Egyptian media outlet Mada Masr her son has undergone torture since being arrested.

Radwan Ahmed, the father of a 14-year-old boy detained by police in September, told The Times that his son was living with 25 others in a single room at the camp.

“Dozens of policemen raided our home at 2am and took my son. They beat him and electrocuted him for several days,” he said.

“I only get to see him when they move the boys from the police trucks to the courtroom for their detention renewal sessions, but we can’t properly talk.

“The last time he saw me, he burst into tears. He looked thin and ill,” Mr Ahmed said. He has since been prevented from seeing his son.

Mr Heneish claims several of the children have contracted skin diseases after spending months in dirty jail cells without blankets or clean water.

El Nadeem submitted a formal complaint to the ministry of justice about the boys’ treatment.

Head of the Human Rights and Social Outreach division at the Interior Ministry Brigadier-General Reda Abdel Atty told Mada Masr that the information is false.

Hany Abdel-Latif, spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, said: “This [Banha] centre does not exist. We do not detain minors in prisons.

“All arrested people under 18 are held in juvenile centres in accordance with the law,” he told the Daily News Egypt.

Although the Egyptian constitution, ratified by a popular referendum in January 2014, states that children must be “provided with legal assistance and detained in appropriate locations”, Mr Heneish claims that while the smaller, “informal” detention centres where the children are being held are legal the length of time they are held for is not.

Tens of thousands have been imprisoned since president Mohamed Morsi was overthrown by the military last year, many on grounds of illegally protesting after the government passed legislation banning demonstrations without permits.

There are more than 200 people –including minors - facing the death penalty, many due to suspected links with Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.

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