Joint Statement: Halt the execution of of 16 men sentenced to death by an Emergency Court
The undersigned human rights organizations called upon the the President of the Republic to halt the execution of the mass death sentences issued against 16 people in July 2021, in Case No. 303 of 2018, known in the media as “the bombing of the police bus in Beheira.” The organizations said that this collective verdict was issued after an unfair trial before an exceptional court whose rulings are not subject to appeal before any other judicial body, which is the Damanhour Emergency Supreme State Security Court. They demanded a retrial of the defendants before an ordinary criminal court, especially in light of the decision to end the state of emergency last October.
The events of the incident date back to August of 2015, when a police bus was attacked with an explosive device in Al-Amir district of the Rashid Center in Al- Beheira Governorate, which resulted in the death of three policemen and the injury of others. Human rights organizations documented a range of violations against those convicted in this case, violations that stripped their trial of the minimum standards of a fair trial. The defendants were arrested several days after the incident based on anonymous investigations, and they stated in the investigations of the Public Prosecution that they had been subjected to numerous violations, including arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance and severe physical torture. Some family members of the accused were also abused and intimidated to force their relatives to surrender.
However, the most prominent violation was the referral of the case to an exceptional emergency court in 2018, despite the fact that the crime occurred before the declaration of the state of emergency in 2017, which means that the Egyptian government used the emergency law retroactively in this case in order to deprive the accused of their right to a normal trial before all degrees of litigation; then a collective death sentence was issued against them, which was ratified by the military ruler last January.
The undersigned organizations condemn the continuation of the accelerated pace of issuing and executing death sentences; the collective verdict of this maximum and irreversible penalty after its execution; and the equal treatment of dozens of defendants in diverse legal positions without implementing the principle of individual criminal responsibility, especially after trials that lack guarantees of justice. In addition, there is no mechanism for appealing the rulings of the emergency state security courts.
This ruling comes within the framework of the Egyptian criminal justice system’s expansion in the use of the death penalty since July 2013. Since then, the legal system in Egypt has expanded the use of this punishment, whether through the issuance of new criminal legislation in the Code of Criminal Procedure or in the Penal Code, or through the issuance of the emergency law in 2017. These legislations led to an increase in the number of crimes that carry the death penalty, as well as a reduction in the degree of litigation before the execution (due to the amendments to the work of the Court of Cassation or due to the emergency law). This is in addition to the judicial expansion in inflicting death sentences on a large number of defendants, compared to previous years, and even compared to most of Egypt’s modern history since the founding of the Republic in 1952.
In view of all of the above, the undersigned human rights organizations call on the President of the Republic to stop the implementation of the aforementioned sentence, and to suspend the execution and issuance of all death sentences, even if temporarily, pending a broad societal discussion about the complete abolition of the punishment. The organizations also call for the necessity of amending the Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent the referral of civilians accused of crimes punishable by death to any exceptional or military court for any reason, in order to guarantee their rights to a fair trial, including the right to an effective defense and the right to challenge the verdict before the Court of Cassation. The organizations also call for allowing for retrials in cases that were marred by several human rights violations - as stipulated in the Egyptian constitution and in line with international and regional human rights conventions ratified by Egypt. The implementation of the aforementioned ruling would be a clear violation of all of the above and an example of the lack of political will to bring about practical and effective change with regard to the criminal justice system in Egypt.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms
Stope the Death Penalty Campaign – Egypt
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Egyptian Front for Human Rights
El Nadeem Center
Committee for Justice
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
The Freedom Initiative