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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Egypt

22 February 2019

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva 
Date: 22 February 2019

We are very concerned by the news from Egypt that a total of 15 people have been executed so far in the month of February, including nine people who were executed on Wednesday and six others who were subjected to the death penalty earlier in the month.
On 20 February, nine individuals were executed in a case related to the killing of Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. During the trial, detailed accounts of the torture allegedly used to obtain confessions were apparently ignored by the court without due consideration.

A week earlier, on 13 February, three other individuals, convicted of the assassination of a police officer, General Nabil Farrag, were hanged, and a week before that, on 7 February, three men were executed in connection with the murder of the son of a judge. All of them had claimed before the courts that they had been disappeared, or detained incommunicado for prolonged periods, and were subjected to torture in order to make them confess to the crimes.

There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated.

In countries that still permit the death penalty, trials in cases of capital punishment must meet the highest standards of fairness and due process in order to ensure that there is no miscarriage of justice resulting in innocent people being deprived of their right to life. In particular, confessions obtained under torture must be excluded from the trial.

Over the past few years, there has been a succession of cases of individuals being convicted in similar circumstances in Egypt amid disturbing reports of a lack of due legal process. A number of these individuals, having exhausted all legal proceedings, are currently on death row and at imminent risk of execution.

The allegations made by the defendants and their lawyers are particularly disturbing given that on 23 June 2017, after a four-year confidential inquiry under article 20 of the Convention Against Torture, the Committee against Torture concluded that torture is “practised systematically” in Egypt.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to halt all executions; conduct a review of all pending cases involving the death penalty, in accordance with the country’s international human rights obligations; conduct credible, independent and impartial investigations into all allegations of torture; and take all necessary measures to ensure that violations of due process and fair trial are not repeated.

We expressed similar concerns just one year ago, on 5 January 2018, after 20 people were executed in a single week.