Report: Nearly 500 people sentenced to death in Egypt in 2018

Nearly 500 defendants were handed death sentences in Egypt in 2018, according to a new report that notes a continued increase in the use of the death penalty by Egyptian authorities over the past several years.

The report, issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Adalah Center for Rights and Freedoms on Wednesday, attributes the increased rate of death sentences to the current government, which has been in power since July 2013.

Death sentences are often handed down and carried out in cases rife with human rights violations, the report states. It details a litany of abuses: the execution of individuals while their trials are still in progress, the use of forced disappearances, torture and other forms of degrading and dehumanizing treatment, violating a defendant’s right to defense, relying on investigations conducted by undisclosed sources, photographing and publishing the confessions of defendants before and during court proceedings, as well as inhumane conditions for prisoners on death row, including solitary confinement and insufficient food and medical care.

The report documents a total of 486 death sentences handed down in 221 cases in 2018. It also highlights a sharp increase in 2017, when 260 individuals in 81 cases were handed death sentences, 65 of which were criminal cases.

According to the report, military criminal courts issued death sentences to at least 52 civilians, 41 of which are detained in six cases of a political nature. The Supreme Military Court of Appeals upheld the death sentences of four civilians in two cases. There were 543 death penalties handed down in 2018, and at least 59 — spread over 16 political and criminal cases — were upheld. Of the 543 sentenced, 486 are currently detained as part of 205 cases, 23 of which are political in nature.

The Prison Authority executed least 43 people in 23 cases in 2018, the report states, 12 of which were military cases, while the rest were civilian. The authority did not disclose where 20 of those executions occurred.

The report also outlines the legislative amendments that went into effect last year regarding the use of capital punishment: The death penalty was added as a new penalty to various crimes, including sexual violence against a kidnapped minor, and replaced life imprisonment sentences previously stipulated in cases of possession, import or manufacturing of explosive materials.

There are a number of recommendations in the report, the most important of which is a call for the suspension of the death penalty and the initiation of an extensive public dialogue to determine the fate of the practice. The report also calls for the government to ratify global protocols and agreements that condemn death sentences, torture and forced disappearances.

The report recommends that Parliament review laws on terrorism, criminal penalties, military trials and criminal proceedings. It also calls on the Interior Ministry to stop publishing videos of defendants during investigations.

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