Physician leaders protest over conditions of detention and death sentences

Alarm has been expressed by the World Medical Association over the death penalty sentences imposed on more than 70 protesters in Egypt, including a number of doctors.

In a letter to the Egyptian President, the leaders of the WMA protest strongly about the treatment of the detainees arrested following the demonstrations in 2013. In particular, they have expressed concern about Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, the former secretary general of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate and a former presidential candidate, who has been held in solitary confinement since his arrest for speaking out about human rights in several television interviews.

Dr. Ardis Hoven, Chair of the WMA Council, and Dr. Otmar Kloiber, Secretary General, said Dr Aboul Fotouh had been refused access to a fair trial and to medical care. He had suffered four heart attacks in detention and prison authorities had refused him access to a hospital outside the prison.

In their letter, the WMA leaders urge President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to ensure access to Dr Aboul Fotouh and all other detainees to a qualified health professional, who can provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy and informed consent, as well as the protection from any torture and ill-treatment. The right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health is a fundamental element of human rights enshrined in article 14 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, ratified by Egypt in 1982, establishing its consent to be bound by its provisions.

In addition, the WMA leaders state that the death penalty violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as such constitutes the ultimate denial of human rights, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used to kill the prisoner. Consequently, they urge President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to take immediate action to abandon the option of the death sentence and consider establishing a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty and to commute all death sentences to terms of imprisonment.

They add: ‘We are alarmed by these continuing and widespread practices undermining the most fundamental rights of the people and trust that you will take promptly all the necessary steps in respect of your engagements to safeguard in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international standards’.

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