EU External Action Responds to Egypt’s ENAG on Detainees’ Conditions amid Corona

The European Union’s European External Action Service (EEAS) on Saturday sent a letter to the Egyptian National Action Group (ENAG) in response to a previous letter sent by the group to EEAS on the conditions of Egyptian prisoners in light of the outbreak of coronavirus.

ENAG is an opposition action group that includes Egyptian opposition figures from diverse political backgrounds – centrists, liberals, leftists, and Islamists – both at home and overseas

In its letter, the European External Action Service said: “Thank you for forwarding the letter of 20 March 2020 to the EU High Representative/Vice President Mr Josep Borrell Fontelles on the impact of the COVID- 19 pandemic on prisoners detained in Egypt.”

The European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Union’s diplomatic body based in Brussels, indicated that they were “closely following the COVID-19 developments in the region including the situation in prisons. In this respect, we note that in March the Egyptian authorities announced a small-scale release by for 15 opposition activists.”

On March 19, the Supreme State Security Prosecution in Egypt decided to release 15 detainees from opposition activists, members of parties and civil political forces, who had been arrested over the last few months, after numerous calls and demands to release all prisoners of conscience, and to reduce the numbers of detainees in Egypt’s overcrowded prisons, for fear of the outbreak of the novel corona virus.

The Supreme State Security Prosecution did not indicate at the time the reasons that prompted the release of the 15 activists, who had been arrested for allegedly disseminating false news and joining a banned group.

EEAS letter added: “We hope that these numbers will increase following the call of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to protect the health and safety of people in detention and other closed facilities threatened by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. In this regard, we take note of the recent announcement of an upcoming Presidential pardon.”

EEAS also emphasized that “The EU Special Representative (EUSR) for Human Rights Mr. Eamon Gilmore has recently been in contact with the Egyptian authorities – inter alia – to call for the protection of the rights of persons in situation of vulnerability who are disproportionately affected by the virus.”

EEAS head, Erika Ferrer, concluded its letter to the Egyptian National Action Group, saying, “I can assure you that we will continue monitoring the situation with the greatest attention as it unfolds.”

It is noteworthy that last February 14, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a letter to former Egyptian presidential candidate and leader of Ghad El-Thawra (Revolution’s Tomorrow) Party, Ayman Nour, being ENAG’s official spokesman, in response to a letter that the Egyptian opposition group had sent to Merkel before (on January 27, 2019).

In her letter, Merkel stressed that “The German federal government closely follows the human rights situation in Egypt, and regularly addresses human rights issues during talks with Egyptian representatives and in relative international forums.”

According to official figures, declared by the Egyptian Ministry of Health, the total number of newly coronavirus infected cases reached 4,319 cases, while the number of deaths reached 307 people; while 1,114 patients were recovered and discharged from quarantine in hospitals.