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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Comment on the treatment and death in custody of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi

18 June 2019



The following comment is attributable to Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:

“As former President Mohammed Morsi was in the custody of the Egyptian authorities at the time of his death, the State is responsible for ensuring he was treated humanely and that his right to life and health were respected.  Any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death. These are general principles elaborated by various international human rights bodies, including the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, with which we fully concur.

“States, including Egypt, that have ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, also have a heightened duty of care to take any necessary measures to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty. In the words of the UN Human Rights Committee -- which monitors the implementation of the Covenant -- by arresting, detaining, imprisoning or otherwise depriving individuals of their liberty, States parties assume the responsibility to care for their life and bodily integrity.

“Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi’s detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family, during his nearly six years in custody. He also appears to have been held in prolonged solitary confinement. The investigation should therefore also encompass all aspects of the authorities’ treatment of Mr. Morsi to examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death.

“Rule 24 of the Mandela Rules (the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners) states the following:  ‘The provision of health care for prisoners is a State responsibility. Prisoners should enjoy the same standards of health care that are available in the community, and should have access to necessary health-care services free of charge without discrimination on the grounds of their legal status.’

“Mandela Rule 27 states that ‘All prisons shall ensure prompt access to medical attention in urgent cases. Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals. Where a prison service has its own hospital facilities, they shall be adequately staffed and equipped to provide prisoners referred to them with appropriate treatment and care.’

“On the subject of investigations, Mandela Rule 71 says the following:  ‘Notwithstanding the initiation of an internal investigation, the prison director shall report, without delay, any custodial death, disappearance or serious injury to a judicial or other competent authority that is independent of the prison administration and mandated to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of such cases.’

“In light of all the above, we believe it is clear there must be a thorough independent inquiry into the circumstances of Mr. Morsi’s death, including the conditions of his detention. The investigation should be carried out by a judicial or other competent authority that is independent of the detaining authority and mandated to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of his death.”


For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]

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