"In the Name of the People": A Report on the Death Penalty and Accompanying Patterns of Human Rights Violations in 2017 Egypt
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) and the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms (ACRF) issued a joint report entitled "In the Name of the People": The annual report on the death penalty in Egypt in 2017. The report is divided into two chapters: the first includes factual information on some cases in which death sentences were handed out and upheld during 2017; the second identifies patterns of human rights violations which some of the defendants sentenced to the death in praesentia faced in the course of trial proceedings.
Chapter I presents the death penalty verdicts issued in 2017 as compiled by the research team. Arranged chronologically, the chapter includes verdicts by civil criminal courts and the Court of Cassation, as well as verdicts by military courts. This chapter details five cases in which the Court of Cassation has upheld death sentences against defendants, eight cases in which the death penalty has been issued by civil criminal courts, and two cases in which the Supreme Military Court of Appeals has upheld death sentences against civilians.
Chapter II identifies patterns of human rights violations during the trial proceedings of some of the defendants sentenced to death in praesentia during the year. At least 32 defendants tried in eight different cases were forcibly disappeared; the prosecution began investigations with at least 50 defendants despite the absence of proper defence attorneys; at least 42 defendants who were sentenced to death retracted their previous confessions as having been the result of torture. Meanwhile, the court documented the presence of marks and bruises on the bodies of at least 13 defendants, whereas at least 22 defendants demanded to be examined before forensic medicine. Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior filmed and published videos, during the interrogation periods, showing at least 11 defendants confessing on camera. Also, at least 22 defendants sentenced to death have complained of their poor prison conditions before court.
The report, therefore, recommends the following:
- The immediate suspension of the death penalty, if only temporarily until a societal debate regarding the death penalty is fully opened, as proposed by the Egyptian government during the voting on the enactment of a moratorium at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council (the sixth amendment, L.41).
- The Egyptian Government must sign and ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
- The Parliament must review the penal and military codes in addition to the counterterrorism and anti-drug laws to reduce the number of offences punishable by death so that the penalty may be imposed only in the most serious crimes and within the narrowest scope. The Code of Criminal Procedures should be amended so that civilians accused of crimes punishable by death shall not be referred to any exceptional or military courts for whatever reason.
- Law enforcement officials must cease the practice of enforced disappearances and torture of the defendants to force them to confess to committing actions or crimes, and to ensure that a lawyer of their choice is present during the investigations.
- The Ministry of Interior should stop publishing videos of the defendants during interrogation periods.
- The Public Prosecution should open serious investigations into the allegations of human rights violations experienced by defendants sentenced to death, including enforced disappearances and torture, and hold those responsible accountable.
- The republication of the annual reports by Dar al Iftaa regarding the correspondences between criminal courts and the Grand Mufti in cases where he is asked to give an opinion on the death penalty.