More than a thousand civilians are being held in the Galaa military camp, home to a notorious prison complex, and suffer from tough prison conditions, a recent report released by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms said.
Galaa military camp, located on Cairo-Ismailia desert road, includes a number of prisons, of which are the old and new Azouly prisons are the most well-known. The report indicated that the camp hosted many prisoners who have been forcibly disappeared.
The report also referred to another secretive, underground prison within the camp, which allegedly hosts hundreds of civilians who have been detained for periods ranging between three and four years. In writing this report, the commission depended on testimonies of former prisoners in the camp, some of whom were military soldiers, who served sentences issued by military courts during their obligatory service within the prison camps.
The testimonies revealed that prisoners were subject to severe torture and maltreatment, and had to endure deteriorating prison conditions, including overcrowded prison cells and poor hygiene.
Most of the detainees held in these prisons, the report explained, hail from North Sinai, most commonly the towns of Rafah and Sheikh Zuwayed. They faced military trials related mostly to terrorism, theft and drug-dealing, and were interrogated by military intelligence in the camp’s unit 8.
A number of tribal leaders in North Sinai brokered a deal with authorities in December 2015 to release 51 detainees held inside the prison complex. However a number of testimonies indicated that some of those released with either brought back to the complex or transferred to other prisons. Families of many of these allegedly-released prisoners still do not know their whereabouts.
The report also referred to possible coordination between different security bodies to transfer of prisoners from different locations till they end up in the prison camp. The process starts with police arresting civilians, who are later interrogated by national security officers, followed by the military police. The prisoners are then referred to a military trial in the Galaa court, situated inside the complex, and later interrogated by military intelligence.
The commission indicated that torture mechanisms applied inside these prisons include offering prisoners insufficient amounts of rotten or inedible food, providing only one liter of water for drinking and hygiene per day, and electrocuting prisoners’ genitals.
Testimonies also detailed that some of the soldiers subject to military trials were forced to enter sewage tubes and remain without bathing for hours. Soldiers also threw barrels of sewage waste at prisoners inside their cells, which led to regular scabies outbreaks among prisoners.
The report recommended that civilians held inside these prisons be transferred to legal detention centers, and that a law be issued banning jailing civilians in military prisons. It also called for the launch of a unit under the supervision of the prosecutor general, which would be tasked with investigating reports of forced disappearances, and granted the authority to inspect military and civilian detention centers.