Egypt: Courts should not be used as a tool of repression

The ICJ today strongly condemned the decision of the Criminal Court of Minya to convict 529 individuals and to sentence them to death.

The individuals were sentenced for “participating in an attack on a police station in Minya,” “murder of a police officer,” “attempted murder of two other officers,” “seizing weapons” and “damaging public property”.

The verdict comes against a backdrop of a continuing crackdown on individuals suspected of supporting the ousted President, Mohamed Morsi, or being members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization officially designated by the military and other transitional authorities as a terrorist organization.

The verdict followed a two-day trial that disregarded fundamental fair trial standards.

The first hearing lasted 30 minutes, while the second lasted one hour.

International law is clear: the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial violates the right to life.

The ICJ calls on the Egyptian authorities to extinguish the convictions resulting from this trial and ensure that those arrested, prosecuted and convicted for the legitimate exercise of their rights to freedom of association and assembly are immediately released.

“The Minya trial made an absolute mockery of justice, violating basic human rights, including the rights to life, to liberty, to be presumed innocent and to defence,” stated Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East & North Africa Program. “Even with Egypt’s long history of unfair trials and systematic politicization of the judiciary, the Minya trial sets a new low, and could be dangerous precedent for mass convictions following mass trials against government critics.”

The ICJ is deeply concerned that this trial is a part of a deliberate policy by the Egyptian authorities to use the courts and the Office of the Public Prosecutor to arrest, prosecute, convict, and imprison opponents of the current authorities.

The ICJ is also concerned that this policy effectively shields from accountability police, security, and military officers responsible for human rights violations committed in the context of the crackdown that followed the ouster of President Morsi, including the killings of more than 1200 people, in particular during the dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adawyia  and Annahda pro-Morsi sit-ins on 14 August.

No effective investigation has  yet been conducted into these killings, and the perpetrators remain unpunished.

“In times of crisis, judges and prosecutors must safeguard and uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms, not act as tools of repression by prosecuting and convicting individuals for the legitimate exercise of their rights” said Benarbia.

“The Egyptian authorities must respect the independence of judges and prosecutors and refrain from any undue, inappropriate or unwarranted interference in judicial matters,” Benarbia concluded.


Said Benarbia, ICJ Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 41 22 979 38 17, e-mail: said.benarbia(a)

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