6 death sentences carried out in February spark criticism of due process violations from rights groups

Over the last two weeks, six people were executed in Egypt in two separate cases that rights organizations say were rife with due process violations, including the use of torture to extract confessions.

In the most recent implementation of the death penalty in Egypt, three people convicted of the murder of the Giza assistant security director during clashes in Kerdasa in 2013 were executed by prison authorities on Wednesday.

Mohamed Farag, Mohamed Hamida and Salah Hassan were hanged on February 13, according to state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.

The executions capped a prolonged legal contest that reached the end of the appellate process in January 2018, when the Court of Cassation upheld the death sentences for the three defendants.

Farag, Hamida and Hassan were among 23 people arrested by security forces in the Kerdasa district of Giza in September 2013, following a shootout that killed Giza assistant security director Lieutenant Nabil Farrag and injured nine other police and military personnel.

Initially, the 23 defendants faced charged in connection with the death of Farrag, attempted murder of police officers and security personnel, possession of firearms and explosives, resist of arrest, possession of communication devices without a permit with the intention of using them to undermine national security, participation in and financing of terrorist crimes, and the establishment and management of an illegal organization.

The first verdict in the case came down in August 2014, when a judge sentenced Farag, Hamida and Hassan and 9 other defendants to death. Ten others were sentenced to life in prison, and one defendant was acquitted.

The Court of Cassation, however, ordered a retrial in the case in February 2015, citing procedural errors.

In September 2016, another circuit in the Cairo Criminal Court issued death sentences for seven defendants, including Farag, Hamida and Hassan.

In the final appeal before the Court of Cassation in 2018, the sentences handed down to the three defendants who were executed last week were upheld, while the court reduced the penalty for the four others to life in prison.

Wednesday’s executions were the second set of death sentences to be implemented in Egypt this month, after three people were executed on February 8 on charges of murdering a judge’s son.

The defendants who were executed, Ahmed Hindawi, Moataz Billah Ghanem and Abdel Hamid Metwallim, were convicted of killing Mohamed al-Morly — the son of Mahmoud al-Morly, the Cairo Appeals Court deputy head — in front of his home in Mansoura in September 2014.

Hindawi, Ghanem and Metwalli were among five defendants sentenced to death in July 2016 for Morly’s death. The other two defendants were sentenced in absentia.

In December 2017, the Court of Cassation rejected appeals submitted by the defendants and upheld the death sentences.

Local and international rights organizations have urged Egyptian authorities to halt implementation of death sentences amid what they describe are due process violations.

According to an Amnesty International report issued on Wednesday, authorities coerced the six defendants executed in the last two weeks into giving the confessions that were used as evidence in their trials.

“The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and its use is appalling under any circumstances, but it is even more so given that all six execution victims were sentenced based on confessions they said were extracted under torture,” Najia Bounaim, the organization’s North Africa Campaigns director, was quoted as saying in the statement. “The shocking flaws in Egypt’s justice system have seen hundreds sentenced to death after grossly unfair trials in recent years.”

On Thursday, six human rights organizations — the Egyptian Front for Human Rights, Committee for Justice, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, Al-Nadeem Center, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, and Adalah for Rights and Freedoms — issued a statement expressing their “total condemnation” of the executions.

The organizations described the cases against the defendants as “politicized and lacking the most basic standards of a fair trial.” Their statement cited a wide range of due process violations incurred in both cases, including forced disappearances, coerced confessions, contradictory or lacking evidence, lack of access to medical examinations, interrogations conducted in the absence of lawyers and the use of torture.

Bounaim asserted that the state’s most recent use of capital punishment was a “concerning escalation of executions this year until this point.”

According to a monthly survey conducted by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, 56 defendants were handed death sentences in January of this year, in addition to 48 others who received preliminary death sentences — which are sent to the Grand Mufti for his non-binding opinion — during the same month.

Between January and November 2018, at least 32 defendants were executed in eight civilian cases and 11 military cases in Egypt, according to a report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. The reported also stated that at least 581 defendants were issued death sentences in 174 civilian cases and nine military cases over the same period.

AD