The ICJ deplores the decision of the Cairo Criminal Court to confirm the death sentences for over 100 persons following a grossly unfair trial.
The ICJ is calling upon the Egyptian authorities to desist from carrying out the executions and to provide an effective remedy for the human rights violations.
On 16 May, the Cairo Criminal Court had already recommended deaths sentences for more than 120 accused persons.
Today, having received the opinion of the Grand Mufti of Egypt (whose secret, non-binding opinion must be sought in all death sentence cases before they are confirmed) the Cairo Criminal Court confirmed the death sentences of more than 100 accused, including former President Mohamed Morsi and numerous other senior officials from the outlawed opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Egypt must immediately end the imposition of mass death sentences and halt all executions of all individuals sentenced to death following unfair trials,” said Said Benarbia, Director of the ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“Egyptian judges are once again contributing to egregious violations of the right to life instead of protecting against, preventing and punishing arbitrary deprivation of life,” he added.
The sentence was imposed following convictions on various charges in two separate cases, including “murder”, “carrying out acts that compromise the independence of the country”, “abduction of police officers”, “collusion with a foreign organization to carry out terrorist activities in Egypt” and “carrying heavy weapons to resist the Egyptian state”.
As previously noted by the ICJ, the trial of the convicted persons violated numerous basic fair trial guarantees.
Many of the accused were denied access to counsel during detention, with some being held incommunicado for months.
Defendants had rights of defence violated, including denial of the right to call and to cross-examine witnesses.
The accused were convicted despite a lack of substantial and credible evidence of proof beyond reasonable doubt of the individual guilt of each accused.
Furthermore, the accused will not have the opportunity to have their conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal.
Under Egyptian law decisions of felonies courts can only be challenged before the Cassation Court, which examines the proper application of the law by the lower court only and cannot review the merits of the case.
This decision is one of a string of cases in which mass death sentences have been meted out against perceived opponents of the regime. Other cases are ongoing.
The Cairo Criminal Court is currently hearing the “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis” case in which more than 200 accused are charged with serious crimes, including the murder of 50 police officers, the attempted assassination of the interior minister and espionage on behalf of the foreign organization Hamas.
According to one of the defence lawyers, the majority of the accused were held incommunicado for between four and six months and were denied access to counsel.
Information allegedly extracted using torture and other ill-treatment has been relied on as evidence in court. If found guilty, the accused could be sentenced to death.
Egypt has carried out the death sentence against at least 12 people in 2015 despite calls by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights to refrain from carrying out the death penalty.
The recent issuance of mass death sentences in the country has been condemned by UN human rights experts, who called them “a profound disgrace”.
The ICJ opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation of the right to life and a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
The UN General Assembly has called repeatedly, by a large majority, for all retentionist States to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, with a view to abolishing the practice. The ICJ urges the Egyptian authorities to heed this call and desist from carrying out further executions.
Alice Goodenough, Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 44 7815 570 834, e-mail: alice.goodenough(a)icj.org
Nader Diab, Associate Legal Adviser of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, tel: 41 229 793 804, e-mail: nader.diab(a)icj.org
Egypt-Morsi confirmation of sentence-News-Press release-2015-ENG (full text of press release, Arabic)