Open Letter to Our Government on the Anniversary of January 25th Revolution
January 25th 2011
The Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy requests Ottawa to support the petition to protect inmates from frigid temperatures in Al-Akrab (Scorpion) prison in Egypt.
Canadian engineer Yasser AlBaz among detainees.
Since then General Abdel Fatah El-Sissi took power in July 2013, the Egyptian authorities have issued hundreds of death sentences without due process, illegally detained more than 60 thousand citizens, mistreating them and held them in abject conditions.
Presently, due to climate change, Egypt is swept by frigid temperatures in a country previously known for its mild and sunny winters. The consequences are severe for average households but particularly dire for inmates.
On-line petitions, the only channel left to make any demands or express an opinion contrary to the official scripted narrative of the Government, are calling attention to the cruel conditions in the prisons, where inmates are left exposed to extremely cold temperatures and deliberately left without blankets. This is exemplified by the situation in Al-Arab prison.
Detainees in Egypt's Scorpion prison are denied blankets and forced to sleep on the floor. They aren't allowed to receive warm clothing. In despair and protest, more than 300 inmates started a hunger strike. In response security forces stormed the homes of their families.
Among those imprisoned, is a Canadian citizen, Yasser Elbaz, who has been detained in Egypt for more than 300 days without trial.
The hardship from the cold is compounded by the lack of medical attention that led to tragic consequences.
- On Monday January 13th, an American Egyptian detainee, Moustafa Kassem, died in custody due to a hunger strike protesting his innocence.
- On Saturday January 4th, journalist Mahmoud Abdel Majid Mahmoud, 47, died inside the Scorpion prison. As his condition deteriorated prison authorities ignored his cellmates' cries for help.
- In August, Human Rights Watch said that Khaled Hassan, an Egyptian-American limousine driver imprisoned on terrorism charges, had tried to kill himself in his cell.
- And let us not forget what the UN investigation in the death of former President Mohamed Morsi in custody, concluded.
A group of independent UN human rights experts said on Friday that there was "credible evidence" that inadequate prison conditions in which former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was held may have led "directly" to his death in June, and thousands of other detainees may be at "severe risk".
The silence of western governments, including Canada, is giving a green light to all these violations and the deaths of dozens of detainees every year due to deliberate negligence.
It has been 9 years since the Egyptian people gathered in Tahrir square, in Cairo to demand 'Bread, Liberty, Social Justice'. The transitional period after the Hosni Mubarak stepped down, was chaotic but heralded a fledgling democratic spirit. In spite of the reversal of political gains at that time, we should not let the Egyptian dream for a better life die.
We demand that our Canadian government publicly and strongly demand immediately measures to alleviate the preventable suffering of all detainees in Egypt. Moreover, Ottawa has a special responsibility toward Yasser Elbaz.
Our government should also demand Egyptian authorities to respect the rule of law, basic civil rights and freedom of expression.
The time to denounce the cruelty of the Egyptian authorities is now! If we don't act we will be sharing the responsibility for the crime. The Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy is counting on your support in this urgent situation.
Thank you for giving immediate due consideration to this message.
- New York Times, "American Held in Egypt Prison Dies After a Hunger Strike", January 12th 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/13/world/middleeast/egypt-prisoner-moustafa-kassem-dies.html
- Human Rights Watch, "Egypt: Rash of Deaths in Custody", January 21st 2015, https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/01/21/egypt-rash-deaths-custody
- Washington Post, "Jailed in Egypt, American limo driver attempts suicide", August 9th 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/jailed-in-egypt-american-limo-driver-attempts-suicide/2019/08/09/90e32b40-bac5-11e9-aeb2-a101a1fb27a7_story.html?outputType=amp
- Egypt Independent, "Media reports 9 female prisoners go on hunger strike against ill-treatment", December 18th 2019, https://egyptindependent.com/media-reports-9-female-prisoners-go-on-hunger-strike-against-ill-treatment/
- UN News, "Egypt: 'Credible evidence' that 'brutal' prison conditions prompted Morsi's death, thousands more at risk", November 8 20, https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/11/1050941
About ECCD: The Egyptian Canadian Coalition for Democracy (ECCD) is a politically independent, non-affiliated pan Canadian organization that advocates for democracy and human rights in Egypt. The ECCD has representatives in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
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