Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar authorised two ‘exceptional’ visits for all prisoners on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha and the 6 October celebrations, according to a ministry statement Sunday.
“Prisoners will be granted the opportunity to unite with their families and loved ones to celebrate both occasions,” the statement read.
The visits, which are additional to the number of visits already authorised for prisoners, are allowed to take place until 31 October.
The ‘exceptional’ visits constitute part of the ministry’s efforts to uphold human rights standards and adopt a modern approach to methods of punishment, according to the statement.
The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) conducted a number of prison visits recently, the latest of which was a visit to the maximum security facility in Tora Prison, known as Al-Aqrab Prison, to assess the prison’s conditions and document prisoners’ complaints.
Among the complaints was the short duration of the visits, as well as several other complaints that included medical negligence, inadequate or lack of nutrition, and the practice of degrading measures against prisoners.
The NCHR delegation that conducted the prison visit reported no major violations to the rights of prisoners. The quasi-governmental body made only minor recommendations, including changing old beds and creating a shaded area for families queuing to visit.
Following the visit, a press conference was held, during which the prisoners’ complaints were addressed. In the conference, the Interior Ministry promised to increase the duration of the visits.
The NCHR’s Al-Aqrab visit was heavily criticised by some NCHR members and several rights groups for presenting findings that contradicted the testimonies from prisoners and their families.
Former head of the Homeland Security agency Abdel Ghaffar was appointed as Minister of Interior early March after President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi removed the former minister Mohamed Ibrahim from office.
This came following mounting criticism fuelled by two major incidents; the death of over 20 football fans outside the Air Defence Stadium in February and the killing of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party’s Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh in January.