Egypt: Recent Mass Death Sentences Show Authorities' Indifference Towards Effective Protection of Human Rights

Alkarama denounces the recent mass death sentences of 188 Egyptian citizens, including 53 in absentia, by the Gizeh criminal court in the trial regarding the 14 August 2013 attack on Kerdasa police station, a few hours after the massacres of Raba'a Al Adawiya and Al Nahda.

Alkarama had already raised its concerns before the Human Rights Council's Special Procedures (SPs) over the mass deaths sentences issued by Egyptian courts a few months ago. At the time, the SPs' mandates holders had denounced this "mockery of justice".

Following Al Sisi's statement to the United Nations' General Assembly (UNGA) on 24 September 2014, where he expressively stated his will "to build a 'New Egypt'... A State that respects the rights and freedoms, honours its duties, and ensures the co-existence of its citizens without exclusion or discrimination. A State that respects and enforce the rule of law, guarantees freedoms of belief and worship to its people," Alkarama had strong hopes that the Egyptian State's gross disrespect for fundamental rights would have ceased. However, the decision, on 2 December 2014, to sentence 188 individuals to death, demonstrates that the Egyptian judiciary continues to show a lack of independence and impartiality, and a complete disregard for the respect of the most basic human rights, in particular international fair trial rights.

Rule of law and democracy cannot be built without an independent and impartial judicial system, which supposes judges and prosecutor trained to apply international human rights standards. The Egyptian authorities should take immediate steps to ensure that international fair trial norms are applied in courts, independently from the defendants' political background.

The parallel between the dropping of murder charges against Mubarak and his staff – despite their proved implication in the killing of protesters during the 2011 revolt that removed him from power – and the decision to sentence these 188 defendants to death cannot but be drawn. Although there cannot be double standards in the application of justice, the Egyptian judiciary has, unfortunately, and once again, proved that the same standards do not apply to all.

As it has recently done during Egypt's second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on 5 November 2014, and as it was specified by the European Union (EU) Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Spokesperson on 3 December 2014 – "Yesterday's decision by a court in Gizeh to issue preliminary death sentences to as many as 188 defendants for a violent attack on a police station last year raises serious concerns. The EU is opposed to the use of capital punishment and its abolition is essential to protect human dignity" – Alkarama would like to reiterate that the use of the death penalty is not a solution to Egypt's issues and will never be. The authorities should therefore establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolishing it.

The authorities should set an example by ending this mockery of justice and ensure that the Egyptian judicial system guarantees effective protection of its citizens' rights. In this sense, Alkarama calls for concrete steps to be taken at the executive, legislative and judiciary levels to ensure the defense, protection and promotion of fundamental rights in Egypt. This should be done in concordance with an inclusive and transparent dialogue with all Egyptian stakeholders on ways to address Egypt's ongoing polarization and turmoil.

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