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Egypt: UN experts call for Human Rights Council response to “appalling” verdicts against protesters

GENEVA (17 September 2018) – UN independent experts* call on the Human Rights Council to urgently respond to verdicts condemning 75 protesters to death and 47 to life sentences in Egypt.

On 8 September, a Cairo Criminal Court confirmed the sentences delivered at a mass trial in July involving 739 people who were convicted on charges of illegal gathering, involvement in violence and incitement to break the law. The rights of the accused to present evidence in their defence were not guaranteed as required by the principle of fair trial. All individuals participated in protests led by the Muslim-Brotherhood in 2013, which were severely repressed by the military, resulting in the deaths of hundreds.

“It is even more appalling that this decision was taken right after the adoption of the law exempting military officials suspected of committing serious human rights violations, between 3 July 2013 - the day the military overthrew Mr. Morsi’s Government, and 10 January 2016, from legal responsibility,” the experts said.

“As a matter of priority, the international community must act to ensure international human rights standards are applied and that human rights violations committed by State officials don’t go unpunished.

“We call on the Human Rights Council to take action on Egypt, and send a strong message to all States that they have a duty under international law to investigate arbitrary killings and prosecute those responsible as well as to apply due process and fair trial standards,” the experts said.

“We are shocked by this judicial decision. The exercise of fundamental freedoms should never be considered a crime and impunity should never be accepted.

“Any executions carried out under such conditions, without full respect for fair trial standards, would amount to arbitrary deprivations of life,” they said, highlighting their previous call for Egypt to halt all pending executions following repeated allegations of unfair trials.

The heavy prison sentences adopted in this case are also in complete violation, not only of the fair trial rights but are grossly disproportionate and, therefore, may well amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

ENDS

* The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms Agnes Callamard, 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. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups 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 system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms 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.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Egypt 

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Marion Mondain (+41 (0) 22 91 79 540 / freeassembly@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

This year is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948. The Universal Declaration – translated into a world record 500 languages – is rooted in the principle that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” It remains relevant to everyone, every day. In honour of the 70th anniversary of this extraordinarily influential document, and to prevent its vital principles from being eroded, we are urging people everywhere to Stand Up for Human Rights: www.standup4humanrights.org.