Egypt: Rights organizations condemn the escalating execution of civilians after fundamentally flawed trials in military and anti-terrorism courts

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The undersigned organizations condemn the execution of Egyptian citizen Tayseer Odeh Sulaiman, aged 25, on Tuesday January 30, 2018.  A military court sentenced Sulaiman to death in a fundamentally flawed trial falling far below minimally acceptable legal and human rights standards, Case No. 99 of 2014 in the Supreme Military Court of Ismailia. There has been an unprecedented rise of executions in Egypt after judicial processes typified by illegal procedures including torture, with the pace of executions escalating to render it a weekly occurrence. In opposition to Egyptian law and the international agreements to which Egypt is a signatory, the Egyptian state executed twenty-six Egyptians in little over a month, from December 26 of last year until present.

The Military Criminal Court in Ismailia sentenced the defendant Sulaiman to death by hanging after the Supreme Military Court of Appeals rejected his appeal without giving any rationale for the rejection. Earlier, the Ismaili Military Prosecutor ordered the referral of the case to the Military Criminal Court, which initiated proceedings without taking into account the guarantees of a fair trial for the accused. Despite the military court’s claim of its independence, impartiality, and basis on the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Egyptian Penal Code, the execution of Sulaiman violated the military code and the guarantees and rules governing legal proceedings in accordance with Egyptian law.

Sulaiman’s execution comes two weeks after 13 human rights organizations sent a letter to the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on them to intervene immediately to stop the Egyptian government from carrying out 26 death sentences. The letter further called for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to replace the death penalty with another penalty, and for the Egyptian government to voluntarily declare a moratorium on the death penalty in any new cases.  This should be done with a view towards abolishing capital punishment in Egypt and reviewing all pending death sentences, to ensure all defendants exercise their right to a free and fair trial. The organizations’ letter was followed by a statement from five UN experts on 26 January 2018 demanding that Egyptian government halt the execution of the  26 people sentenced to death, one of whom was Sulaiman.

The Egyptian government’s implementation of the death penalty “under the guise of combating terrorism” is a pretext intentionally concealing the underlying fundamental flaws of the judicial process in Egypt.  The role of the criminal justice system in addressing counter-terrorism issues is being neglected, with a steady increase in violations of the fundamental standards for a free and fair trial. The signatory organizations affirm that combatting terrorism and protecting human rights are not incompatible but mutually reinforcing: counter terrorism can only succeed if the rule of law and human rights for all citizens are respected. Escalating and flagrant human rights violations, such as state’s spiraling use of capital punishment under a deeply flawed and biased judicial system unable to guarantee due process, only exacerbate terrorism by adding to citizens’ grievances and violating the rule of law.

The undersigned organizations call upon the Egyptian Government to give due consideration to the UN’s recommendations and to implement them, including those relating to the legality of the proceedings and due process under the law.  In the context of combatting terrorism, human rights should be promoted and protected using UN human rights mechanisms. These include the recommendations of the Human Rights Council (HRC) under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Egypt accepted the recommendations of its UPR at the HRC in 2015.  Egypt further pledged to uphold the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), both of which oppose the use of capital punishment. The escalating state execution of civilians in Egypt is in violation of both Egyptian and international law, and the Egyptian government must heed the call of Egyptian civil society and the international community to halt this barbaric practice immediately before more civilians like Sulaiman are unjustly executed.

Signatory Organizations:

  1. Adalah for Rights and Freedoms
  2. Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO)
  3. The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE)
  4. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  5. Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  6. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
  7. Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms
  8. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  9. Al Nadeem Center against Violence and Torture
  10.  No to Military Trials for Civilians

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