GENEVA (22 June 2017) – The Government of Egypt must halt the executions of six men sentenced to death after trials that did not meet international standards of fairness, a group of UN human rights experts* have said.
The experts expressed deep concern that the men had been convicted on the basis of forced confessions that were later retracted.
“To proceed with the executions of the six men on the basis of these flawed trials would violate international human rights law and constitute arbitrary executions,” noted the experts on summary executions, torture, arbitrary detention and countering-terrorism.
The death sentences were upheld on 7 June by Egypt’s highest criminal court, the Court of Cassation. The six men - Basem Mohsen Elkhorieby, Khaled Askar, Mahmoud Mamhouh Wahba, Ibrahim Yahia Azab, Abd Elrahman Attia and Ahmed al-Waleed al-Shal - were convicted in 2015 of terrorism-related charges, in particular in connection with the killing of a police officer in 2014.
All six men are reported to have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment to force them to confess, before being transferred to prison where they were held in inhumane conditions. Three of the men were made to confess on national TV.
“It is extremely worrying that while all six men recanted their forced confessions in court and indicated that they had been obtained under torture, these were still used as the basis for their convictions,” said the experts. “This is in clear violation of Article 1 of the Convention against Torture, to which Egypt is a party.”
The experts noted that supporting evidence used against the men, as well as testimonies from state security members, also showed major inconsistencies. For example, witness statements did not match video footage of the alleged crime scene.
“Capital punishment may only be carried out after a legal process that gives all possible safeguards to ensure a fair trial,” they stressed.
“The only thing that distinguishes capital punishment - as possibly permitted under international law - from arbitrary execution is full respect for stringent due process guarantees.
“The Government must halt these executions and ensure a retrial in compliance with international law and standards, in particular ensuring that they receive a fair trial and that due process guarantees are met.”
The experts have sought clarifications from the Egyptian authorities on the issues in question.
(*) The experts: Ms Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism; and Mr José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
The UN 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, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council 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 organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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