Egypt's Notorious Scorpion Prison Could be Closed in Rare Win for Human Rights Groups

Published October 31st, 2017 - 07:15 GMT
Many political opposition figures have been imprisoned at the Scorpion facility (AFP)
Many political opposition figures have been imprisoned at the Scorpion facility (AFP)
  • Egypt's State Commissioners' Committee has agreed to review complaints by NGOs and prisoners' families about the notorious Scorpion Prison
  • A team of medical and human rights specialists will help to decide whether the prison is fit for human habitation
  • The news follows NGO reports which alleged torture, limited access to medical care and frequent deaths at the Cairo facility
  • The prison, which opened in 1993 houses some of Egypt's best known political prisoners


One of Egypt’s most notorious prisons could soon be no more following a decision by the country’s administrative courts.

The State Commissioners’ Committee has agreed to review a complaint by prisoners’ families and NGOs asking that the government shut down Cairo’s Tora Maximum Security facility, also known as Scorpion prison.

The notorious complex currently holds some of Egypt’s best known political prisoners, including lawyer Essam Soltan.

Last week the committee ordered the creation of a team of medical and human rights specialists from Egyptian universities to assess whether the prison is suitable to house inmates.

Once the evaluation is completed, officials will deliver a non-binding verdict on whether the prison is fit for human habitation.

The news could give hope to hundreds of inmates families who’ve called for the facility to be closed down and prisoners transferred elsewhere.

The news comes following calls from human rights groups to close the facility.

In 2015, Human Rights Watch released a report claiming that inmates were beaten, deprived of visits from family members and legal officials and forced to sleep on concrete floors.

The same report found that basic hygiene utensils were forbidden and cells contained tiny windows and poor ventilation.

Meanwhile, inmates are also banned from receiving medical care and medicine in the prison where six inmates died in just five months in 2015.

Soltan, deputy head of the al-Wasat Party, was detained in July 2013, weeks after the military coup, which saw former president Mohammed Morsi ousted from power.

He fainted during a trial earlier this month while on hunger strike to protest months of solitary confinement, deprivation of exercise, and lack of clean water.

The prison was allegedly thought up by a group of officers who spent five years training in the U.S. and may have later went on to provide the blueprint for Guantanamo Bay.

Prison staff have the power to cut off water, light and electricity and close individual windows at will.

Scorpion and its H blocks were built and opened in May 1993 and house some of the most fierce opponents of the Mubarak and El-Sisi regimes.

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