Could the Egyptian regime stop the “doctors’ slaughter”?

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Amid successive campaigns to stop the executions in Egypt against political opponents, activists launched a campaign to demand the rescue of two doctors who were sentenced to death in the case known in the media as Shabab al-Mansoura, which is a final and enforceable ruling. Human rights defenders often question the death sentences of a political nature issued by the Egyptian judicial system, stressing that the Egyptian regime uses the judiciary to suppress its political opponents.

The new campaign, launched by a number of activists on social media sites, entitled “Red is not appropriate for them,” demanded that the death sentence for the two doctors, Ahmed Walid al-Shall (28-years), in the final year at the Medical College at Mansoura University, and Ibrahim Yahya Abdel-Fattah Azab (27-years), who graduated from the College of Pharmacy at Mansoura University, be reversed. According to a number of human rights defenders, the two doctors were arrested on March 6, 2014, and were forcibly disappeared for several days, during which they were subjected to the most severe forms of torture at the State Security headquarters in Mansoura, and they were forced to confess to a murder.

A number of activists also circulated pictures of the doctors while they were being taken from prison to the trial headquarters, while they were wearing a red suit (which is allocated for those who are sentenced to death) awaiting the final judgment of their death sentence.

Death sentences

Since the military coup in Egypt in 2013, hundreds of political opponents have been sentenced to death, and executions have been carried out in some well-known political cases, such as the “Arab Circassians case,” and the “assassination of the public prosecutor” case. Every time human rights advocates call for stopping capital punishment in Egypt, especially because they are issued in cases of a political nature.

Death sentences against opponents and political activists are issued heavily from judicial departments devoted to trying politicians in Egypt under the accusations of belonging to “terrorist circles,” in addition to other death sentences against civilians who were tried before the military courts and “emergency state security” courts.

Execution of judgments

The most recent execution was carried out last week, when the authorities carried out the death sentence against seven people convicted of killing a police officer in Ismailia Governorate in 2013. Egypt ranks sixth on the list of countries that carried out the most executions in 2018, according to a report issued by Amnesty International in April 2019, after China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Since the overthrow of the late President Mohamed Morsi by a military coup, the Egyptian judiciary has expanded to issue death sentences against opponents, issuing nearly 1,500 death sentences. Since 2014, the Egyptian authorities have executed 60 people in political cases, and about 80 other people are awaiting execution of their death sentence at any time, after their sentences became final.

A report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights revealed that the Egyptian authorities have issued 2,726 death sentences in various cases, since January 2011, including 717 in 2018.

Doctors in prison

In the context of calling for the rescue of doctors arrested and sentenced to death, the human rights platform We Record monitored, in a report, the presence of at least 438 detainees in the medical sector in the various Egyptian detention facilities, including doctors, pharmacists, and nurses. With the onset of the corona pandemic, a number of detained doctors have appealed to the Egyptian authorities for their temporary release to support their colleagues in their battle against the coronavirus.

The arrest of doctors and the issuance of prison and death sentences for their political opposition comes in light of the suffering of government hospitals in Egypt from a large shortage in the number of doctors as a result of the migration of many of them abroad and the resignation of others due to poor working conditions in hospitals and low salaries. Doctors, nurses, and medical workers suffer from difficult conditions and gross negligence from the Ministry of Health, which resulted in the death of many as a result of infection with coronavirus during the past months during contact and treatment of patients without the state providing them with the necessary safety measures or health protection and sterilisation tools.

According to government reports, the deficit in the number of doctors has reached 60,000, while the Minister of Health revealed in statements to parliament that Egypt has 103,000 doctors for 100 million citizens, and that 60 per cent of Egyptian doctors have travelled to work in Saudi Arabia.