Monitoring the death penalty in recent years indicates that the Egyptian authorities are insisting on continuing to rely on the death penalty in their judgments in political cases, in which the accused are subjected to widespread violations that violate their guaranteed rights during the period of their trial. The last executions were carried out at dawn on Saturday morning on 15 political prisoners after a trial with little integrity, which occurred in turbulent political circumstances in Egypt. According to an Amnesty International report, Egypt ranks fifth in the world in carrying out death sentences around the world during the past year.
Egypt imposed the largest number of death sentences recorded in the region, but its number in 2019 (no less than 435) was much lower than in 2018 when at least 717 people were sentenced to death. During the first half of 2020, according to the Egyptian Front, civil and military criminal courts issued 171 death sentences during the first half of this year. The Egyptian Front monitored that Egyptian courts sentenced to death at least 171 people in 73 cases, 40 of whom were in two political cases – Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis Organisation and the attempt to assassinate the Alexandria Security Director. The two cases belong to an emergency state security court, meaning that its verdict is made as soon as the military governor ratifies it. There are also 131 people sentenced to death in 71 criminal cases.
The organisation monitored the death penalty’s implementation on 34 people, 10 of whom were connected with three cases related to political incidents, which are known in the media as the bombing of churches, Farafra, and the oases. The cassation courts supported the death sentences against ten people, including seven in the Helwan Police Department case. In addition to the death sentences imposed on 171 people, 40 of them in two cases of political violence, which are the case known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, in which 37 people were sentenced. As for the case known as the attempt to assassinate the Alexandria Security Director, three people were sentenced to death. Meanwhile, the courts referred the papers of 158 people in 59 cases, 40 of whom were in two political cases, to the Mufti to express his opinion on their execution.
According to the Egyptian Front, at least 34 people were executed in 11 cases, including eight who were convicted by the court in the case known as the “bombing of churches,” who were executed on February 25, 2020. Hesham Ashmawi was also executed on March 4, in connection with his sentence in the case known as Farafra ambush. The execution was also carried out in Abdul Rahim al-Mismari in the case known in the media as al-Wahat. During the first half of 2020, the Court of Cassation upheld the verdict on seven people in a political case known as Helwan Police Station, so that the total verdicts supporting death sentences in the first half of 2020 are ten judgments, including three in criminal cases.
According to Egyptian law, “when the death sentence becomes final, the documents of the convicted person are immediately submitted to the President of the Republic through the Minister of Justice, and the death sentence is executed if the order for pardon or commutation of the sentence is not issued within 14 days.” In exchange for permanent doubts about the validity of death sentences and considering local and international human rights bodies as “politicised,” the Egyptian authorities refuse entirely, according to previous official statements, any prejudice to the Egyptian judiciary. Cairo says that the judiciary, both civil and military, is independent and impartial. The accused are subject to more than one litigation, rejecting any accusations that undermine their independence.
Human rights lawyer Mahmoud Jaber says that what is happening in Egypt is murder in the name of the law. He added, “I do not say about any accused person that he is innocent, as murder and terrorism in all its forms are unacceptable and criminal, but justice and fairness require the provision of a trial before a normal judge who reassures the accused before him and enjoys the guarantees of a fair trial guaranteed by the constitution, Egyptian law, and international human rights law.” He confirmed that a large number of the defendants in these cases were subjected to enforced disappearance, in addition to material and moral coercion, in addition to ignoring the sources of investigations, which reveals a breach of the most basic fair trial guarantees that must be met in cases where the death penalty is imposed.