Release Egyptian prisoners now to protect them from COVID-19

Amid rising fears over the spread of COVID-19 in Egypt’s overcrowded prisons, the Egyptian authorities should reduce the prison population and properly protect prisoners at risk.

In Egypt, thousands of people have been held in prolonged pre-trial detention, which frequently exceeds the two-year legal limit under Egyptian law. Many of them are unlawfully prisoned in the first place – they human rights defenders, prisoners of conscience and peaceful activists.

The conditions in many Egyptian prisons are inhumane: overcrowded, dirty and without proper ventilation. Prisoners often have no access to clean water or soap.

People in prisons are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 due to unsanitary living conditions, the impossibility of physical distancing and inadequate healthcare.  

Between 14 and 25 April, the Egyptian authorities issued pardons for over 4,000 prisoners. But in practice, these exclude a large number of inmates who are unlawfully imprisoned, including human rights defenders and people in prolonged pre-trial detention.

In order to save lives, sign your name and call on the Egyptian authorities to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all activists, human rights defenders and others detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights
  • Urgently consider releasing pre-trial detainees and prisoners who may be at particular risk from the disease including those with underlying health conditions and the elderly
  • Consider non-custodial measures for people accused of minor and non-violent offences, where the state should consider early, temporary or conditional release
  • Release children where it is safe to do so and in the child’s best interests - the deprivation of a child’s liberty must always be a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible time
  • Provide detainees with means of contact with the outside world when prison visits are suspended
  • Provide all detainees with adequate health care without discrimination, including for the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of COVID-19