The Egyptian government carries out the largest number of executions in its history Rights groups condemn the execution of 15 people after a military trial that does not meet basic fair trial standards
The undersigned groups condemn the execution, today, of 15 people sentenced to death in case no. 411/2013/Ismailiya plenary felonies, known as the “Officer Tracking Cell” case. This is the latest in a series of death sentences handed down without regard for basic guarantees for a fair trial.
The families of the 15 defendants were shocked after learning that the Egyptian authorities had executed their loved ones today, although Article 472 of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows relatives of people sentenced to death to meet with them on the day of their execution, provided it is not at the execution site itself. The sentences were carried out in the Borg al-Arab and Wadi al-Natrun prisons, according to notification given to the defendants’ families after the executions.
The 15 people sentenced to death were: Ahmed Azmi Hassan Mohammed, Abd al-Rahman Salama Salem, Alaa Kamel Selim, Musaad Hamdan Salem, Halim Awwad Suleiman, Ibrahim Salem Hammad, Ismail Abdullah Hamdan, Hassan Salama Gomaa, Dahab Awwad Suleiman, Youssef Ayyad Suleiman, Mohammed Ayyash Ghannam, Salama Saber Selim, Fouad Salama Gomaa, Mohammed Salama Talal, and Ahmed Salama Talal.
The first-instance court issued its verdict, sentencing 15 defendants to death, on June 16, 2015; a minor defendant was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and three other defendants were acquitted. The Supreme Military Court upheld the sentences on November 13, 2017, which means the executions were carried out 43 days later.
According to the indictment order, the case involved an attack on the Safa 3 Checkpoint in al-Arish on August 15, 2013. Nineteen people were charged with murder in connection with the incident, three of whom were subsequently acquitted, and all defendants were charged with possession of automatic weapons and ammunition. The attack caused the death of an officer, a sergeant, and nine soldiers.
The interrogation reports of the Military Prosecution and case files reveal several violations of the defendants’ right to a fair trial, which nevertheless did not sway the court in its conclusions and sentencing. First, a number of the defendants were forcibly disappeared, held for up to four days in illegal detention facilities in the North Sinai security sector, namely at the 101st border guard brigade facility and the Zuhour camp in Sheikh Zuweid. In the case files, the prosecution justified their unlawful detention by citing the general security situation and the lack of sufficient security forces that heightened fears of the detainees’ escape. The case files also contain some documentation of signs of torture inflicted upon the defendants. The prosecution’s external examination of Ibrahim Salem (who was executed today) revealed injuries and wounds to his eyes, wrists, right forearm, and right leg, as well as bruises and scrapes on his chest, stomach, and back. The prosecution noted these injuries in the interrogation report.
In addition to enforced disappearances and torture, nine of the fifteen executed men had no attorney present with them during questioning. The other six had three attorneys appointed for them by the prosecution - an infringement of their right of defense. Another violation appears in the statement of the officer who conducted the investigation: he does not adequately clarify how he gathered the information used to write his investigative report, noting only that it came from confidential, trustworthy sources.
The latest execution of 15 people brings the total number of civilians executed following military trials to 21 people since 2013. In May 2015, death sentences were carried out against six defendants in case no. 43/2014/North Cairo military felonies, known as the “Arab Sharkas Cell” case. That trial, too, was marred by numerous human rights violations during the arrests and interrogation, and the prosecution and military court similarly disregarded reports of enforced disappearance and torture by the defendants and their families.
Military tribunals have handed down death sentences in numerous cases, including case no. 22/2015/Tanta military felonies (the Kafr al-Sheikh Stadium case), no. 174/2015/Gharb military felonies (the Qualitative Operations case), and no. 264/2015 (the Storming of the Tamia Police Station case), among others.
The military court has not hesitated to take the lives of people in the wake of trials that do not meet fair trial standards. Given the legislative tendency to expand the authority of the military courts and the judicial tendency to deploy capital punishment politically, the undersigned groups demand limiting the military judiciary’s jurisdiction over civilians. They further demand an immediate moratorium on the death sentence, given that it constitutes a flagrant violation of the right to life and to a fair trial. The signatories also stress that continuing to issue and carry out death sentences, especially in military trials, erodes the values of justice and does not achieve the state’s declared objective of combating terrorism.
Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms
Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and torture
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
No to Military Trials for Civilians