Egypt: ICJ condemns recent executions following unfair military trials, calls for moratorium

The ICJ today condemned the executions of 22 civilians during the past month, following death penalty cases before military courts in which fair trial guarantees appear to have been flagrantly violated.

The Egyptian authorities should establish an immediate moratorium and halt all pending executions with a view towards the total and permanent abolition of the death penalty, the ICJ added.

“The executions of these civilians constitute blatant, egregious violations of the right to life by the Egyptian authorities,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ MENA Director.

“Carrying them out based on military trials, which furthermore failed to scrupulously observe international fair trial standards, amounts to the arbitrary deprivation of life,” he added.

Based on information provided by the defendants’ lawyers and families, Egyptian NGOs have reported a litany of fair trial violations that marred these proceedings.

These included the case of a defendant who was convicted following one trial session, in the absence of his counsel.

It also included instances involving enforced disappearances and allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, some of which were documented in the prosecution reports.

In one case the defendants’ lawyers filed a motion to “review the case” under article 448 of the Code Criminal Procedure which should normally suspend the carrying out of any sentence of execution.

The executions were nevertheless carried out on 9 January, before the Military Court’s review, which was due on 28 February 2018.

“The Egyptian authorities have brushed aside the most basic legal safeguards on the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty,” Benarbia said.

“Because they cannot ensure respect of fair trial rights, they must impose an immediate moratorium on executions.”

Under international standards, proceedings in death penalty cases must conform to the highest standards of judicial independence, competence and impartiality, and must strictly comply with all fair trial rights.

The ICJ has previously documented how the Egyptian judiciary fails to conform to these standards.


Saïd Benarbia, Director of the ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41.22.979.3817, e: said.benarbia(a)

Egypt-Executions-News-2018-ARA (Arabic translation in PDF)


International standards recognize the particular concerns with judicial independence and impartiality that arise in relation to the trial of civilians by military courts.

Accordingly, the jurisdiction of military courts should be limited to military personnel in cases of strictly military offences, i.e. alleged breaches of military discipline.

The above-mentioned cases involved civilians and allegations of ordinary offenses, including theft, rape, and murder (including murder of military officers).

Particularly in these circumstances, there could be no justification for these cases to have been adjudicated before military courts and the ICJ considers that this factor in itself renders the executions in violation of the right to life.

The ICJ furthermore opposes the death penalty in all circumstances as a violation to the right to life and to the prohibition of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The cases in question were: Case No. 411/2013 before the Ismailiya Criminal Military Court (15 executions in 26 December 2017), case No.  22/2015 before Tanta Criminal Military Court (4 executions in 2 January 2018) and case  No. 93/2011 before the Ismailiya Criminal Military Court (3 executions in 9 January 2018).