Egypt: Suspend death sentences issued after unjust trials in military courts

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

The undersigned organizations strongly condemn the ruling on Monday March 26th, 2018 upholding the death penalty for two students, Ahmed Amin al-Ghazali and Abd al-Basir, despite grave violations of due process during their trials. The ruling, which denied the appeal of the two students in Case no. 174/2015, was issued by the Supreme Military Court of Appeals. With this latest ruling,  31 people have now been sentenced to death after exhausting all avenues of appeal. We fear these sentences may be swiftly implemented amidst the media focus on the presidential elections. We call for an immediate moratorium on the implementation of these sentences.

The undersigned organizations further condemn the Egyptian authorities’ execution of three civilians last week, who were convicted in two separate cases before military tribunals. This brings the total to 29 executed in the last four months, following convictions in military courts that systematically violate basic due process guarantees.

In Case no. 174/2015, the Military Prosecution charged 28 people with intentional destruction, disclosure of defense secrets, and possession of weapons and explosives. On May 29, 2016, the Military Criminal Court sentenced eight of these defendants to death, while the remaining were sentenced to prison terms. In the aforementioned appeal hearing two days ago on Monday March 26, the military court admitted the appeal of six of the defendants sentenced to death while denying the appeal of the two other defendants in the same case: Ahmed Amin al-Ghazali, an engineering student, and Abd al-Basir, a secondary student in his matriculation year.

The case was marred by severe violations of the right to a free and fair trial, violations that included enforced disappearance and torture. At least 14 defendants were forcibly disappeared after their arrest for up to 46 days in detention facilities, where they did not have access to their attorneys during the initial interrogations and were subjected to physical and psychological torture to coerce their confessions.  The traces of the torture were still evident at their first hearing. The rights of defense were also infringed upon during the trial.

The death sentences issued against the two students after a fundamentally flawed judicial process come in the context of an unprecedented escalation in the use of the death penalty in Egypt.  Two other persons -Suleiman Eid Garabia and Rabhi Gomaa Hussein Hassan – were executed last week by hanging. They were sentenced to death by Ismailiya’s military court in Case no. 382/2013 on February 24, 2015, with their appeal rejected on February 6 of this year.  Ayed Suleiman Ayed was also executed last week, after being sentenced to death by hanging in 2014 by Ismailiya’s military court. In both cases, the defendants suffered grave violations during their detention, including torture and enforced disappearance. The case files contained no evidence of the defendants’ guilt and the charges were not proven. According to an investigatory memo from the Office of Military Intelligence in Arish, the defendants had no connection with the incident. Military officers who gave testimony also contradicted the charges, and no eyewitnesses identified the defendants at the time of the incident.

Executions in Egypt continue unabated despite statements from the European Parliament on February 18, 2018 and five UN special rapporteurs on January 26, 2018 urging the Egyptian government to halt executions due to the glaring absence of fundamental and minimal due process guarantees for a fair trial.

The undersigned organizations unequivocally reject the death penalty, as the ultimate irrevocable punishment depriving one of the right to life. We renew our call to the Egyptian government to immediately suspend the implementation of death sentences, abide by the recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms, and immediately halt the referral of civilians to military trials under Law 136/2014. We also call on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to use his legally mandated authority to overturn or suspend death sentences or commute them to a lesser sentence, and to review all death sentences to determine whether the defendants received fair trials.

Signatory organizations

  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  • Nadeem Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
  • Egyptian Coordination of Rights and Freedoms
  • Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF)
  • Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  • Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  • Arab Foundation for Civil and Political Rights – Nidal
  • Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF)
  • No to Military Trials for Civilians
  • Belady Center for Rights and Freedoms
  • Regional Center for Rights and Liberties

 

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