Egyptian group issues call for 5-year moratorium on World Day Against the Death Penalty

To mark World Day Against the Death Penalty, an independent Egyptian group is appealing to citizens, civil society organizations, political parties and popular movements to support its proposal for a five-year moratorium on capital punishment.

Against the Death Penalty,” which was established in April 2014, issued a statement on Monday, asserting that the time period would “facilitate an open and inclusive civil discourse to allow discussion of all dimensions of the penalty,” paramount at a time when there is a “clear deterioration in Egypt’s legal and judicial system.”

“The fabrication of charges, extraction of confessions under torture, tampering with legal evidence, a lack of proper legal procedures, the collusion between authorities in the justice system, the issuing of sentences without compelling evidence, along with a disregard for due process and the legal safeguards for fair investigations and trials,” are among the varied abuses of legal protections, asserted the statement.

United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement on Monday, describing the death penalty as “a cruel and inhumane practice.” Ban added that capital punishment “has no place in the 21st century,” calling for increased global efforts to categorically abolish the practice.

Egypt’s Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) hosted a conference titled Against the Penalty of Death in early September to commemorate the second anniversary of the death of human rights lawyer Ahmed Seif. During the event, participants called for the suspension and eventual abolition of capital punishment.

Egyptian courts have issued more than 538 death sentences in 2015, excuting at least 22 individuals, according to a report issued by Amnesty International this year.

Six of those who were executed by the state were party to a 2014 case that has become known as the “Arab Sharkas Case.” The sentences were carried out despite the fact that the defendants had sucessfully filed an appeal before an Egyptian administrative court in hopes of overturning the rulings that were originally handed down by a military court.

Cairo Criminal Court handed out the most recent death sentences in proceedings that have become known as the “Returnees from Libya” case. The two men sentenced to death by hanging were convicted of having joined an armed terrorist organization. The sentences were submitted to Egypt’s grand mufti to solicit his legal and religious opinion on the verdict.

A military court also sentenced eight civilian defendants to death in May in the “Advanced Operations Cell” case. Muhammad al-Baqir, the lawyer representing two of the defendants in the case, previously told Mada Masr that the death sentences were issued “in light of confessions which were clearly extracted under torture.”

“The court disregarded the defendants’ statements, as they denied the charges leveled against them. It also disregarded testimony, in which they insisted that they had been subjected to severe violations,” Baqir stated.

In 2015, the number of executions worldwide rose by 54 percent in comparison to 2014, according to an Amnesty International report. The 573-person increase pushed execution figures to their highest point in the last quarter of a century.

One hundred and two countries have passed legislation to abolish capital punishment, while 32 countries retain the punitive measure in their legal code but have stopped enforcing it within the last ten years, according to Amnesty International. Six other countries have retained the death penalty, reserving its application for offences such as murder and crimes committed during times of war. Another 58 countries retain capital punishment in both law and practice.

State-sanctioned executions in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia constituted 89 percent of capital sentences worldwide in 2015, according to Amnesty International. The report did not include information pertaining to China, as the country’s government did not disclose the number of state executions it had conducted.

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