UN Human Rights Chief calls Egypt death penalties outrageous

CENEVRE (CIHAN)- The United Nations human rights chief has called the mass imposition of the death penalty in Egypt outrageous.

On Tuesday (28 Apr), Navi Pillay strongly condemned the shocking imposition of the death penalty on 683 individuals in Egypt after mass trials that she said clearly breached international human rights law.

Reading Pillay’s statement to reporters in Geneva, the spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said “it is outrageous that for the second time in two months, the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya has imposed the death sentence on huge groups of defendants after perfunctory trials.”

She added “in defiance of worldwide pleas for Egypt to respect its human rights obligations after 529 people were sentenced to death in March by the same court, hundreds now face a similar fate at the hands of a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon.”

According to information received, the 683 defendants were charged with killing a policeman and breaking into the Edwa police station in Al-Minya on 14 August 2013, among other charges. As in the previous cases, the exact charges against each defendant are not clear, given that they were not individually read out in court.

In her statement, Pillay said “the presumption of innocence is fundamental to the protection of human rights in a criminal trial.”

Of the 529 people who were sentenced to death by the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya on 24 March for killing a policeman and on various other charges, 37 had their sentences upheld by the court yesterday, while others reportedly received reduced sentences of 25 years, in itself excessive, and were fined EGP 20,000.

The High Commissioner noted that “the death penalty can only be applied for the most serious crimes and after the most stringent trial safeguards,” adding that “this has clearly not been the case in these two trials before the Al-Minya criminal court. A mass trial of hundreds of people, rife with procedural irregularities is simply not good enough for imposition of the death penalty. It is also a totally inadequate basis for sentencing 492 individuals to life in prison.”