Egypt must halt executions, warn United Nations (UN) experts

UN experts* today expressed grave concern about the confirmation of the death sentences against seven individuals by Egypt’s highest court on 24 January 2024, in the so-called “Helwan Brigade” counter-terrorism case. Their executions would constitute arbitrary killings in violation of the right to life as a result of unfair trials and other human rights violations, they said.

“Capital punishment may only be carried out after a legal process that guarantees all of the safeguards required by international human rights law,” the experts said.

The experts said these cases allegedly involved grave violations of international law, including enforced disappearances and incommunicado detention, torture and forced confessions, denial of access to lawyers and family visits, protracted pre-trial detention, solitary confinement, inhuman detention conditions, and mass trials before special terrorism courts which did not meet fair trial standards.

“Egypt has also failed to independently and effectively investigate and remedy these alleged violations as required by international and Egyptian law,” they said.

The death sentences further violate international law because they are based on convictions for vague and overly broad terrorist offences, including when these may not meet the threshold of “most serious” crimes. There is also a real risk that executions in practice may constitute prohibited torture or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

“We urge Egypt to halt these executions, to independently investigate the alleged human rights violations and review the judicial proceedings in light of Egypt’s international obligations,” the experts said.

UN experts have previously called on Egypt to suspend executions following repeated allegations of unfair trials in terrorism cases. “We are profoundly concerned that these cases are not isolated but seem to be part of a systematic misuse of counter-terrorism and national security laws, including to impose the death penalty, which undermines human rights and the rule of law,” the experts said.

The experts also urged Egypt to consider abolishing the death penalty, in light of the pro-abolitionist spirit of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the recommendations of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2023.

Note: The seven individuals are Magdy Muhammed Ibrahim Ibrahim, Mahmoud Attia Ahmed Abdulghany, Abdulwahab Mostafa Muhammed Mostafa, Musab Abdulhamid Khalifa, Abdullah Nader Al-Sharqawy, Abdulrahman Issa Abdulkhaliq, and Mahmoud Al-Sayed Amin. 

*The experts: Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ben Saul, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; Margaret Satterthwaite, Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Aua Baldé (Chair-Rapporteur), Gabriella Citroni (Vice-Chair), Angkhana Neelapaijit, Grażyna Baranowska, and Ana Lorena Delgadillo Pérez, Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances;  Matthew Gillett (Chair-Rapporteur), Priya Gopalan  (Vice-Chair on Follow-Up), Miriam Estrada-Castillo, and Mumba Malila – Working Group on arbitrary detention.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

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