The deaths sentences handed down to 183 people in Egypt today following grossly unfair trials are a further sign of Egypt’s disregard for national and international law, says Amnesty International.
“Today’s death sentences are yet another example of the bias of the Egyptian criminal justice system. These verdicts and sentences must be quashed and all of those convicted should be given a trial that meets international standards of fairness and excludes the death penalty,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment in all circumstances. To impose death when there are serious doubts hanging over the fairness of the trial is outrageous and flouts international law.”
The sentences come after a nation-wide media campaign calling for the execution of those involved in attacks on police and military, which gathered pace following last week’s attacks in Sinai.
In December, the Giza criminal court convicted 188 people of involvement in the killing of 11 police officers, in relation to attacks on Kerdassa Police Station in Giza in August 2013 in which 11 police officers were killed. The final verdict was issued today following consultation with the Grand Mufti.
“Issuing mass death sentences whenever the case involves the killing of police officers now appears to be near-routine policy, regardless of facts and with no attempt to establish individual responsibility,” said Colm O’Gorman.
So far, 415 people have been sentenced to death in four trials for the killing of police officers, while the case against former President Hosni Mubarak, involving the killing of hundreds of protesters during the uprising, has been dropped. To date no security officers have been held to account for the killing of 1,000 protesters in August 2013.
The trial was held in Tora Police Institute rather than a courtroom and all of the witnesses were either police officers or families of the police officers. The families of the defendants were unable to attend.
“Not allowing the families or public to attend the trial was in contravention of national and international law and holding the trial in a prison complex undermined the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair and public hearing,” said Colm O’Gorman.
The defence panel also told Amnesty International that not all of the defendants were brought to the hearings. Those who were, were unable to hear the trial proceedings or communicate with the legal team because of a large dark glass screen separating them from the rest of the courtroom. The defence panel also added that they were not able to cross-examine prosecution witnesses during the trial and the judge did not summon all the witnesses.
This comes just ahead of the mass trial on 8 February of Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa and493 others detained following protests in August 2013. If convicted Ibrahim, along with many of the defendants in the upcoming trial, could face the death penalty.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.
Under Egyptian law, all death sentences must be reviewed by the Grand Mufti, the country’s highest Islamic cleric, before the court formally imposes them. However, his opinion is only advisory. Those condemned may challenge their death sentences before the Court of Cassation, Egypt’s supreme court. Under Egyptian law, those sentenced in their absence (in absentia) also have the right to a retrial.