UN calls on Egypt to halt and review pending death sentences
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva, 13 July 2021
United Nations human rights experts have called on the Egyptian authorities to formally halt the pending executions with the aim of ensuring that all death sentences issued are properly reviewed, as they are based on convictions made through unfair trials.
Execution of death sentences issued by unfair trials:
In a memorandum sent by the experts to the Egyptian authorities on May 12, 2021, which has not yet been responded to, they referred to the execution of seventeen death sentences, in April 2021, after a trial that was said to have failed to meet basic standards of due process and fair trial, along with allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment to which the defendants were subjected, in the case of the so-called “Kerdasa Police Station storming” (No. 12749 of 2013, Giza Felonies).
The experts stated that the defendants were allegedly denied due process and a fair trial following their arbitrary arrest; They were unable to contact their lawyers during the investigation and throughout the proceedings and were subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including for the purpose of extracting confessions. They were collected and submitted by National Security, and their statements were obtained under duress.
Concerns about the escalation of executions in Egypt:
In their memo, the experts pointed out that it seems that the use of the death penalty in Egypt has increased at an unprecedented rate in the past two years, noting that the 17 executions carried out in April raise the number of executions carried out in the country to a total of 54 sentences since the beginning of 2021. In 2020 at least 107 executions were carried out, which is an increase of more than three times the sentences carried out in 2019, which amounted to 32.
The experts stated that death sentences in Egypt are regularly handed down after proceedings that do not always comply with due process and fair trial standards, including mass trials, and defendants are routinely subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including for the purpose of forcing defendants to confess guilt.
The experts expressed grave concern about those allegations, which, if confirmed, would amount to a violation of the right to life, as enshrined in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Egypt has ratified since 1982.
UN demands to halt executions and to open an investigation and compensation for the relatives of the victims:
The experts called on Egypt to consider establishing an official moratorium on pending executions in order to ensure that all death sentences are properly reviewed, as convictions are based on unfair trials, with the need to retry individuals in full compliance with international human rights law and standards during their trial.
The experts called on the Egyptian authorities to clarify whether that case, related to the recent execution of seventeen people, took place in accordance with the requirements of due process and a fair trial at all stages of the proceedings, including since their arrest, pre-trial stages, trial and sentencing.
The experts also called on Egypt to indicate whether any investigation has been carried out into the allegations of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that the accused have reportedly been subjected to, and to clarify the remedies available to the relatives of the alleged victims (or their relatives) to seek and obtain redress, including appropriate compensation, and in line with Egypt’s international human rights obligations.