Egypt – Indigenous defender Gamal Sorour dies in prison following medical negligence
Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the death due to medical negligence of Nubian human rights defender Gamal Sorour in Aswan Prison on 5 November 2017. The human rights defender was arrested along with 24 others in September 2017 after a peaceful protest demanding the Nubian peoples' right of return to their lands from which they were displaced in the 1960s.
Prison authorities denied Gamal Sorour, who was in his early 50s, his diabetes medication for five days prior to his death. Prison authorities claim the medication was delayed because the label was in French and required translation. Human rights defenders detained with Gamal Sorour, however, say authorities only began withholding medication from prisoners when several went on hunger strike in protest against their detention.
The Nubian people are indigenous to present-day Sudan and Egypt. In the Aswan region, they have been subjected to land expropriation and forced displacement by the Egyptian government, and face cultural marginalisation and racial discrimination across the country.
Gamal Sorour was known across the Nubian community for his years of peaceful activism and support for the Nubian cause. At the time of his death, he faced charges of inciting protest, disruption of public order, and participating in unauthorized demonstration. Human rights defenders in Aswan report that the 24 detainees arrested alongside Gamal Sorour are being held in one cell with several sleeping on the floor.
“Gamal's death is a shocking escalation of the violent persecution of Nubian rights defenders in Egypt. Denying medical care to any prisoner is a callous violation of international law – but Gamal should never have been behind bars in the first place.”
- Ed O'Donovan, Head of Protection at Front Line Defenders
The human rights defenders were arrested at a peaceful march on 3 September 2017, at which the community sang traditional songs to mark Eid al-Adha and campaign for the Nubians’ "right of return" as guaranteed by Article 236 of the 2014 Egyptian Constitution. The demonstration was scheduled to take place in the centre of Aswan but was relocated to the square of Midan Al-Guzzayra due to a security presence at the original spot. At Midan Al-Guzzayra, the demonstrators were met by eight security vehicles and two military tanks. Armed police physically assaulted protesters and arrested 25 people, then detained them at Aswan Central Security Camp in Shalal. A month later, seven more Nubian activists were arrested outside the security camp as they peacefully protested for the release of the 25 detainees.
Front Line Defenders strongly condemns the death of Nubian rights defender Gamal Sorour, the medical negligence of the Aswan prison, and the persecution of peaceful indigenous rights defenders in Egypt. Front Line Defenders calls for an immediate investigation into the circumstances of Gamal Sorour's death, followed by criminal prosecution of the authorities responsible. Front Line Defenders further calls upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately cease the continued harassment of Nubian human rights defenders.