Egyptian human rights activists have condemned the recent executions of 12 political prisoners as a violation of the judiciary’s own procedural laws.
In a statement released today, Ahmed El-Attar of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF) highlighted that the death sentences carried out by Egyptian authorities this month were unconstitutional, as the punishments were carried out on the defendants even as they were appealing the ruling.
“The lawyers of the three defendants in the case of the [murder of the] son of the Chancellor and the nine [accused] in the case of the Attorney General, both submitted formal requests for a re-examination by the Public Prosecutor’s Office; the Egyptian authorities should have suspended execution orders until the petition was resolved,” the statement read. “They didn’t follow procedure and carried [out] the death sentences on all the defendants.”
“The authorities violated with their own procedural laws, Article 448 of the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure,” El-Attar added.
The execution of nine men accused of plotting the assassination of Egypt’s attorney general in 2015 warranted international condemnation last week, after videos circulated of the defendants declaring they had been forced to confess under torture.
“The defendants were subjected to the most severe forms of torture, and forced to confess to the murder under duress during interrogation. In court they denied the charges, citing the severity of their injuries and requested medical reports to prove their claim of duress,” El-Attar says. “Their judges, Counsellor Mohamed Allam and Counsellor Hassan Farid, ignored their legitimate right to request the medical examination or investigation.”
Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the UN Human Rights Office said last week that the UN has serious concerns about the conflicted process of fair trials in the cases and urged Egypt to properly investigate allegations of torture.
The death sentences were also condemned by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who vowed to not meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi until other prisoners were released.
“This is a crime against humanity,” Erdogan said, adding: “When you look at the figures, at least 42 people were executed since Al-Sisi took power and lately nine young people were executed.”
However, Al-Sisi responded to criticism and defended the death penalty at a summit between Arab and European states yesterday, saying the two regions had “two different cultures”.
Rights defenders are concerned that European states focused on security have lent Al-Sisi international legitimacy at a time when his supporters are pushing through constitutional amendments that could allow him to stay in power until 2034.
“It is distressing that the leaders at the summit have not addressed adequately the threats to freedom of expression and assembly, fundamental rights which are under threat in many places in the Arab world,” Oxfam’s Middle East and North Africa regional Director, Marta Lorenzo, said in a statement.
Since becoming president following a military coup in 2013, Al-Sisi has ruled Egypt with an iron fist. The government has launched a crackdown on anyone suspected of opposing Al-Sisi, with former Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected leader, also imprisoned and facing a retrial after previously being sentenced to death.
El-Attar called on the international community to support efforts to pressure the authorities into abolishing the death penalty, which could save some 50 prisoners set to be executed.
“The right to life is one of the most basic human rights. In all societies, religions, constitutions and in international law, each person has the right to be heard, and tried, in a just court of law. In Egypt no said justice exists, when all the legitimate authorities are focused on wiping out any challenge by murdering and imprisoning opponents.”