The Ministry of Interior has refused to allow National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) monitors to visit hunger-striking detainees Abdullah al-Shamy and Mohamed Soltan, according to a statement issued Monday.
On May 28, the general prosecutor’s office granted the NCHR permission to conduct the visit, the government body said, but 12 days later the Interior Ministry has still not granted them access to the detainees, nor has it supplied valid reasons for its failure to do so.
“The Ministry of Interior did not provide NCHR with a date to visit both detainees, despite continued efforts by council members,” the statement said.
The NCHR said it is an urgent task to monitor the condition of detainees in Egypt’s prisons.
Both Shamy and Soltan’s families have slammed the NCHR for its failure to advocate for their sons, or document human rights violations against detainees.
The council’s charter holds that it must request permission from the prosecution and the police to visit detainees, a stipulation that some claim restricts the NCHR’s independence. Critics say the mandate should be amended to allow council members to visit prisons without prior approval from the authorities.
Soltan and Shamy declared a hunger strike in January to protest against what they call their unjust incarceration.
Soltan was arrested when police forces raided his home in search of his father, Salah Sultan, a leader in the banned Muslim Brotherhood organization. Shamy — a journalist for the Qatar-based Al Jazeera network — was arrested while covering the violent dispersal of the Rabea al-Adaweya sit-in last August. Shamy’s detention has been extended several times since September, without his case ever being referred to trial.
Both men endure inhumane conditions in prison, according to their families, and their health is now in serious danger due to their hunger strike.