Joint HR statement in solidarity with Egyptian doctors protesting police brutality

Thu, 11 Feb, 2016

Hours before emergency meeting of the Doctors Syndicate general assembly

Rights organizations stand in solidarity with the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate and condemn smear campaign against them; Matariya policemen must be prosecuted

Joint press statement

The undersigned organizations express their full solidarity with the Egyptian Doctors Syndicate, which in a few short hours will convene an emergency meeting of the general assembly. We appreciate the syndicate’s efforts to protect the dignity of doctors and ensure their personal safety and protection. We further condemn the January assault, detention, and torture of doctors at the Matariya Teaching Hospital by policemen from the Matariya police station. We support the demands in the three complaints thus lodged with the public prosecutor in connection with the incident by the doctors assaulted and the director of the hospital as well as the syndicate itself. We ask for the speedy investigation and prosecution of the policemen responsible for the assault and that all legal measures be taken to end the repeated attacks on medical and nursing staff in all healthcare facilities. The undersigned organizations also urge the government to support the protection and security of medical facilities and their staff, especially in light of increasing reports of similar assaults on medical teams at other hospitals.

The incident in question took place at the Matariya hospital on January 28, when several junior policemen with the Matariya station broke in through the hospital gate and physically assaulted two doctors and a hospital administrator on duty; the policemen insulted the doctors, threatened them with firearms, and tortured them in front of patients and witnesses after doctors at the facility refused to fill in a false injury report for the policemen. According to a statement issued by the Doctors Syndicate, “A citizen in civilian clothing came to the hospital with an injury to the face and asked Dr. Ahmed Mahmoud, a resident with the surgery department, to write a report documenting non-existent injuries along with the actual injury. When the doctor refused, the patient revealed he was a policeman and that the doctor should write up the report he wanted or the policemen would fabricate charges against him.”

The Public Prosecution revoked the decision to close the investigation into the incident and on February 6 summoned six Matariya policemen accused of assaulting two physicians, eight nurses, and one security administrator. On the Wednesday February 10, the policemen were referred to the prosecution and held in custody pending investigations. This comes after the Doctors Syndicate on January 30 decided to close the Matariya hospital given the difficulty of securing the facility and ensuring the doctors’ safety until legal action was taken against the violations by the policemen. On February 4 the public prosecutor ordered the hospital reopened after securing it, although the policemen did not appear for questioning at the time. He also ordered an investigation into the closure, considering it a violation of the constitution and a crime of impeding the operation of a public facility.

The undersigned organizations further condemn the smear campaign launched by the media to pressure the syndicate to back down. The media has accused the syndicate of dereliction and neglect, being Brotherhood sympathizers, involvement in a conspiracy against the country, and other egregious charges, seeking to exploit patients’ right to treatment to compel the syndicate to abandon doctors’ rights. Some media outlets have falsely reported that the syndicate has issued directives not to treat policemen, prompting the syndicate to issue a denial in a statement on its website. The media has also highlighted mistakes by doctors without examining their causes, many of which are due to shortcomings in the medical system as a whole, from the lack of continual medical training and education, poor capacities, and the lack of binding treatment protocols in hospitals to the lack of treatment facilities equipped to handle all patients, an insecure, unfit working environment for doctors in hospitals, and paltry wages. The undersigned organizations urge the public prosecutor to apprehend the Matariya policemen and investigate the complaints filed thus far, supported with video footage and eyewitness testimony. The prosecutor should ensure that complainants and witnesses at the Matariya Teaching Hospital are protected against any harassment and threats, particularly since the syndicate’s attorney has said that 22 complaints have already been filed against the syndicate.

Signatory organizations

1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies

2. Alhaqanya Foundation of Rights and freedoms

3. National group for human rights and law

4. The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement

5. Arab Network for Human Rights Information

6. El-Nadeem Centre for the rehabilitation of victims of violence and torture

7. Habi Center for Environmental Rights

8. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development (ACT)

9. Masryoon Against Religious Discrimination

10. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

11. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance

12. Nazra for Feminist Studies

13. The Freedoms Committee of Egypt's Press Syndicate

February 10, 2016

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