Egypt: Rights groups call on UN Secretary General to pressure Egyptian government to halt executions, welcome independent UN experts’ condemnation of the latest sentences

In a letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, 13 independent rights organizations urged the UN to immediately intervene to stop the Egyptian government from carrying out 26 death sentences. The Egyptian government should voluntarily declare a moratorium on executions, as a prelude to abolishing capital punishment, and review all death sentences to determine whether the defendants received a fair trial. Attached to the letter, dated January 22, was a list of pending death sentences, a copy of which was sent to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad and a number of senior UN officials and independent experts.

While welcoming the recent statement from five independent UN experts condemning the continued use of capital punishment in Egypt, the signatory organizations called on the UN Secretary General and other parties to urge Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to use his legal authority to commute the sentences to another penalty.  They further called on the Egyptian government to voluntarily announce a moratorium on any new executions, as a prelude to the abolition of capital punishment in Egypt; and review all pending death sentences to ensure that those convicted in flawed trials will face a fair retrial.

In the annex to the letter, the organizations detailed all death sentences awaiting execution, with the defendants having exhausted all avenues of appeal. As the letter stated, most of these cases fell below the minimum standards for a fair trial, and many of those sentenced to death were forcibly disappeared before they suddenly resurfaced at the prosecutor’s office or on television confessing to committing terrorist attacks. In many of the trials, defendants were denied access to lawyers, and several petitions for new proceedings were denied despite the emergence of  exculpatory evidence. Defendant confessions were systematically coerced through torture, and in most cases, the prosecution and later the court refused to refer the defendants to a forensic examination.

The day after the letter was sent, credible information came to light that two defendants in two different cases, one of which was listed in the annex, were gravely at risk of imminent execution after being sentenced by the military court. This required immediate action from the UN Secretary General. Regrettably, the defendants Ahmed Mohammed Sarie and Ahmed Ayati Abd al-Wahhab were executed the next morning.

With this, 25 death sentences have been carried out in just one month; and 25 sentences are pending, the defendants in imminent danger of being executed after convictions in unfair trials falling below the minimum standards of justice and  due process. As the letter emphasized, within Egypt’s current political context, plagued by “institutional impunity and a rapid politicization of criminal justice institutions” that systematically “depend on soliciting confessions through torture and threats… does not seem any semblance of justice is attainable.”

Read the letter by 13 Independent Egyptian Human Rights NGOs to the UN Secretary-General 

Read the Summary of impending executions

Signatory organizations:

  1. Adalah for Rights and Freedoms
  2. Andalus Institute for Tolerance & Anti-violence Studies
  3. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
  4. Arab Penal Reform Organization
  5. The Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression
  6. Cairo Institute for Human rights studies (CIHRS)
  7. Committee for Justice (CFJ)
  8. Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
  9. Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms
  10. Egyptian Front for Human Rights
  11. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
  12. Nadim Center against violence and torture
  13. No to Military Trials of Civilians

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