The year 2018 showed an unprecedented increase in issuing death sentences by the Egyptian Criminal Courts and the Military Judiciary for those convicted of committing criminal acts or crimes of terrorism or political violence. In 2018, at least 737 people were sentenced to death in comparison to 240 people who received the same penalty in 2017. In political cases, 185 people were sentenced to death during 2018, 147 by criminal courts and 38 through military trials. At least 46 people were executed during that period, 9 of them in political cases, while final and binding sentences has been issued for the execution of at least 51 people, 37 of them in political cases.
In the 10 cases of a political nature where the defendants are sentenced to death during 2018, most of them have encountered gross violations, most prominent are enforced disappearances, torture, absence of lawyers and non-referral to forensic medicine, all of which did not affect the court’s decision in issuing execution verdicts in these cases.
The majority of the defendants were denied communication with the outside world through enforced disappearance. At least 137 defendants out of 192 have been forcibly disappeared for periods exceeding three months. Half of the detained defendants have been subjected to either physical or moral pressure to coerce confessions of the charges attributed to them. 59 persons said that they were beaten, 57 said they were electrocuted, 30 were subject to hanging and 22 were threatened that their families would be subjected to torture, according to their testimonies in the prosecution interrogation. Moreover, 91 out of 192 defendants were denied access to lawyers, while 60 others were only allowed assigned lawyers, and only 26 defendants were allowed a private lawyer. The prosecution has also ignored most of the defendants’ allegations of torture and has delayed referring many of them to the forensics. Out of 83 defendants who claimed to have been tortured, 45 were denied referral to the forensics, and another 38 were referred after stalling from the part of the prosecution, which explain the negative results in the forensics reports. Detainees also reported living in poor detention conditions, including health deterioration and food conditions, solitary confinement and deprivation of their rights to outdoor exercises, visitation, and the arbitrariness they counter in pursuing their studies, in addition to the ill-treatment and overcrowding in the cells.
Accordingly, the Egyptian Front for Human Rights recommends the following to the Egyptian Authorities:
- Suspending the implementation of all executions and holding this irreversible punishment until a societal dialogue takes place regarding freezing or halting the death penalty.
- Adhering to international standards stipulated in international human rights law relating to fair trial guarantees, which provides for ensuring the protection of all rights of the defendants, especially those facing the death penalty.
- Reviewing dozens of Egyptian laws relating to the death penalty and repealing amendments issued after July 2013 such as Decree no. 136 of 2014 and amendments to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which reduced the rights of the defendants to a fair trial.
- Opening independent investigations with the authorities responsible for violations committed against the defendants during the course of proceedings starting from their arrest until issuing the verdict, headed by reviewing acts of the control authority. And ensuring that the investigating and prosecuting authorities are committed to their role in verifying the defendant’s’ allegations of being subjected to violations.