Egypt: Aisha el-Shater critically ill amid torture and denial of medical treatment in prison

The Egyptian authorities must immediately put an end to the torture of critically ill detainee Aisha el-Shater, said Amnesty International.

Following her arrest in November 2018, sources told Amnesty International that Aisha was subjected to severe beating, electric shocks and enforced disappearance. Her predicament did not end when the authorities ordered her transfer to al-Qanater Women’s Prison in late January 2019. Instead, she has been subjected to prolonged solitary confinement in conditions that amount to torture.

The inhumane conditions to which the Egyptian authorities are subjecting Aisha put her life at serious risk. We are deeply concerned about her deteriorating health and the alarming and abusive conditions in which she is being held
Najia Bounaim

According to medical sources, she suffers from aplastic anaemia, a rare and serious condition affecting the blood. Her health deteriorated rapidly and she was admitted with significant bleeding to Al-Qasr al-Ainy hospital, where she was treated with a platelet transfusion. However, her condition requires ongoing specialist and intensive treatment in a properly equipped medical facility. In her current situation, her life remains at serious risk due to sepsis or bleeding.

“The inhumane conditions to which the Egyptian authorities are subjecting Aisha put her life at serious risk. We are deeply concerned about her deteriorating health and the alarming and abusive conditions in which she is being held,” said Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International.

“The Egyptian authorities must immediately ensure that Aisha is transferred to a hospital with the necessary facilities to provide her with adequate medical care. They should also end her solitary confinement and allow her to receive regular family visits.”

On 1 November 2018, Aisha el-Shater, 39, was arrested along with at least 18 other individuals, including her husband Mohamed Abo Horira. On 21 November, she appeared before the Supreme State Security Prosecution and was held in pre-trial detention pending investigation for “membership in a terrorist group”. Since then, a prosecutor and later a judge have been renewing her detention in almost automatic hearings. Before Aisha’s arrest, she spoke out about the victims on human rights violations including enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment in places of detention. Her detention likely stems from these activities and is therefore arbitrary.

The Egyptian authorities must immediately ensure that Aisha is transferred to a hospital with the necessary facilities to provide her with adequate medical care. They should also end her solitary confinement and allow her to receive regular family visits
Najia Bounaim

Aisha was moved to al-Qanater Women’s Prison, following a decision to transfer her in late January 2019, where the authorities have subjected her to prolonged solitary confinement in a tiny cell with a bad ventilation system, according to sources. She is held in the cell for more than 23 hours a day, without a bathroom, but only a bucket to use instead, and is only allowed to leave twice a day – for less than 30 minutes – to use the bathroom. Since her detention, the authorities have denied Aisha family visits, and communication with her family and lawyer in prison. This treatment amounts to torture according to international law.  

The ill-treatment of Aisha el-Shater amounts to torture. The Egyptian authorities must take immediate and effective measures to end these violations and bring those responsible to justice
Najia Bounaim

Aisha el-Shater is the daughter of Muslim Brotherhood senior leader Khairat el-Shater. Khairat el-Shater has been imprisoned since July 2013, when the military ousted former president Mohamed Morsi. Amnesty International believes that Aisha’s treatment stems from her relationship to Khairat el-Shater.

“The ill-treatment of Aisha el-Shater amounts to torture. The Egyptian authorities must take immediate and effective measures to end these violations and bring those responsible to justice,” said Najia Bounaim.

Background

Depending on the specific reason for its application, conditions, length, effects and other circumstances, solitary confinement can constitute torture or other ill- treatment. In particular it is acknowledged that prolonged solitary confinement may amount to torture or other ill-treatment. The Special Rapporteur on torture and the Mandela Rules have defined prolonged solitary confinement as lasting more than 15 days. Aisha has been subjected to solitary confinement for nine months, since she was moved to prison, such prolonged period of solitary confinement plainly amounts torture.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions has recently found that the treatment of Mohamed Morsi, who died in custody following years of solitary confinement and denial of family visits as well as inadequate medical care, may have contributed to his death.

In June 2019, Amnesty International published a damning overview of human rights in Egypt since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014. The report, which was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, highlighted the authorities’ extreme restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly, the widespread use of arbitrary detention, torture and other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and unfair trials and appalling detention conditions, among other concerns.