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Refugees & forced migration

Egypt: Sudanese refugee dies due to torture

The Contemporary Sudanese Centre

2010-04-23, Issue 478

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Mr. Isaac Ismail Matar Mohammed died in one of the secret Egyptian security prisons where he was detained involuntarily since January 16, 2010 with two of his comrades from the neighborhood of October Sixth. The news spread amongst the refugees that the detainees were being subjected to various forms of torture including beatings, electric shocks and immersion in cold water. The victim’s body was not able to stand the torture and he died in detention three weeks ago.

Mr. Isaac Ismail Matar Mohammed died in one of the secret Egyptian security prisons where he was detained involuntarily since January 16, 2010 with two of his comrades from the neighborhood of October Sixth. The news spread amongst the refugees that the detainees were being subjected to various forms of torture including beatings, electric shocks and immersion in cold water. The victim’s body was not able to stand the torture and he died in detention three weeks ago.

The number of Sudanese refugees and asylum-seekers detained in the different prisons in Egypt is still unknown. They face torture and trials that do not meet the most basic rights of the defender nor do they meet the fundamentals of fair trials. The arrests took place during the first months of this year. A campaign of arrests was launched by the Egyptian state security apparatus against refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from the troubled Darfur region, most notably under the allegations of assisting people to infiltrate into Israel.

Large numbers of detainees have disappeared involuntarily for a period of three months. They were later located in State Security centers where they appeared in Tora prison on April 8th before the court of Abbasia and they were indicted by the State Security Prosecution. It was reported in the news at the time that two of the refugees - did not specify their names - were transferred to the hospital and that a third one lost his mind as a result of torture while another refugee, Isaac Matar, lost his life for the same reason.

Mr. Isaac Matar, nicknamed Uncle Isaac, is a 53-year-old man who was born in the town of Seleia South of Darfur. He is the father of two daughters and two sons and he had left his home after being subjected to torture and persecution that has caused paralysis in the some organs of his heart and he was waiting for an operation to repair a valve of the heart. The UNHCR and its implementing partner Caritas have been slow to act due to the high cost of the operation. It is believed that Mr. Matar died due to an electric shock he received inside the prison.

It is noteworthy that the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo cooperates with the Egyptian security authorities in the campaigns of arrest, torture and deportation of refugees to Sudan with travel documents issued by the embassy. Friends of the deceased refugee, Isaac Matar, received a call from the Sudanese Embassy on the night of April 19th conveying to them the news of his death while he was detained at the Egyptian State Security without specifying the exact place. The phone call mentioned that the incident took place three weeks ago and that it was kept secret. The body was handed over by the Egyptian authorities and they requested the approval of his family to bury him in Egypt, "simply as if nothing has happened," to quote one of his relatives in Sudan.

Isaac Matar is a refugee and he carries a refugee card from the UNHCR. This means that the UNHCR is responsible for his protection in Egypt and that the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo has no right to intervene because it represents the government that caused his escape from his home. The Sudanese embassy says that no one cares for the dead corpses of the Sudanese refugees in Egyptians hospitals; and that they always receive phone calls of this type. This shows that the Sudanese nationals lack care and attention.
It is required to open an investigation into the death of the Sudanese refugee Isaac Matar and in the situation of all the Sudanese refugees who have been and still are subjected to various forms of torture, while not receiving adequate health care out of Egyptian prisons. An investigation should be open with the Egyptian state in the cases of torture and forced disappearances of the Sudanese refugees. Officials involved in murder and torture should also be held accountable.

There are conflicting stories about the real number of Sudanese detainees amongst the large number of African detainees in the Egyptian prisons; most of them were asylum seekers or refugees from Darfur who have been arrested during the crackdown of State Security; or captured while trying to infiltrate at the borders between Egypt, Libya, Israel and Sudan or arrested from roads, apartments and cafes in Cairo.

Reports indicate the presence of a large number of Sudanese nationals in the Egyptian prisons and troubling cases for international law and human conscience. We emphasize that accurate statistics for prison inmates and detainees are not available and that their situation is very disturbing, especially being subject to torture and to accusations that lack credibility and evidences. State security refuses that the refugees choose their own lawyers and they subjected to trials selectively.
The situation of Sudanese inmates in Egyptian prisons among them refugees and asylum seekers in the absence of the responsibility of their state, and the inability of the UNHCR to carry its responsibilities towards them. This creates a hard reality that impairs human conscience and that puts the responsibility on the activists of the human conscience and human rights and on international and Egyptian human rights and humanitarian organizations in order to work more effectively.

The Egyptian state is required to provide accurate data on the number of Africans in its prisons; and identify the numbers of Sudanese inmates and the reasons for their detention and the state of their health conditions. In addition to investigating cases of torture and murder, Egyptian authorities need to allow lawyers to be hired by the detainees to defend them in courts.

The Contemporary Sudanese Centre

News Monitoring Section

April 20, 2010


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