Amnesty International has called for an urgent investigation by the Egyptian authorities after receiving video footage from inside a morgue showing the bodies of scores of prisoners, some of whom had apparently been tortured before being killed.
The three videos of dead prisoners from Al-Fayoum Prison were taken in the Zenhoum morgue in Cairo on 8 February, 2011 by a man who went to the morgue after the family of another inmate told him that the dead body of his brother was there.
“These are distressing images that show a large number of inmates who appear to have been killed in horrific circumstances,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The Egyptian authorities have a responsibility of care for all inmates of their prisons and must immediately investigate how these prisoners met their deaths and bring to justice anyone found responsible for carrying out unlawful killings, torture or other ill-treatment.”
Malek Tamer found the name of his brother, Tamer Tawfiq Tamer, an inmate at Al-Fayoum, one of Egypt’s large prisons, on a list of 68 male prisoners listed in the morgue’s register.
He said a large number of the bodies, which were all numbered with pieces of paper attached to their fronts, had wounds to areas including the head, mouth and eyes, suggesting they were tortured before their deaths.
Injuries included bullet wounds, burn marks, bruises and missing finger and toenails, Malek Tamer said.
He was accompanied by a friend, Mohamed Ibrahim Eldesouky, whose brother Reda Ibrahim Eldesouky, another Al-Fayoum inmate, whose dead body was also among those in the morgue.
The pair last saw the two prisoners alive in the morning of 30 January 2011, when they were in the custody of military staff with other prisoners on the Al-Fayoum – Cairo highway, south-west of Cairo, after they had left Al-Fayoum prison on 28 January 2011.
Military staff told them they could enquire about their brothers at the Prison Authority in Cairo, under the Ministry of Interior, within two days, otherwise their place of detention would be announced within 10 days.
A week later, Mohamed Ibrahim Eldesouky went to the Zenhoum morgue after being told by unidentified men in plain clothes that his brother Reda’s corpse was there.
Having discovered Tamer’s name among those of 68 men on the morgue registry, he informed Malek Tamer, who then visited the morgue with his camera.
Tamer Tawfiq Tamer’s death certificate said he had died at Al-Fayoum prison on 3 February from “suspicion of suffocation and an acute blood pressure drop”.
Malek Tamer described his brother’s body as being blue from his head to the lower chest, and said bruises and coagulated blood were clearly visible on his head, nose and eyes.
Reda Ibrahim Eldesouky’s death certificate said he had also died on 3 February but gave no reason for his death, stating only: “Forensically examined and case under study”.
Mohamed Ibrahim Eldesouky said he saw similar wounds on his brother’s body as well as burn marks.
The Egyptian authorities have not issued medical or forensic examination reports for either prisoner.
Malek Tamer and Mohamed Ibrahim Eldesouky have yet to receive any response from the office of Cairo’s Public Prosecutor after submitting the video footage and a complaint with support from the Egyptian Center for Development and Human Rights.
About 21,600 prisoners are reported to have been let out or to have escaped from Egypt’s prisons in unclear circumstances after the Ministry of Interior, responsible for running prisons, quit office on 28 January following that Friday’s ‘Day of Anger’ protests.
More than half of them were re-arrested or later handed themselves in to the authorities.View video footage from morgue (Warning – contains very graphic images)View additional background on this case