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UN and international organizations condemn death sentences against 6 people in Egypt

The United Nations Commission for Human Rights said Egyptian authorities must halt death sentences against six defendants accused of killing a policeman in the northern city of Mansoura in 2014. The commission said on Thursday that they were subject to an unfair trial, where they were forced to confess under torture.

“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 a number of UN human rights experts. “This is in clear violation of Article 1 of the Convention against Torture, to which Egypt is a party.”

Egypt’s Court of Cassation upheld, in a final ruling earlier this month, death sentences against the six defendants who were also accused of forming a terrorist cell aiming to target military and police officials.

The commission continued: “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.”

Similarly, Amnesty International condemned the death sentences against the six defendants, noting that “Regardless of what the men may have been involved in, forcibly disappearing suspects and torturing them into confessing is not justice. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. No one should be deprived of their right to life, no matter how horrific the crimes they have been accused of are.”

Lawyer Mohsen al-Bahnessy who is representing the defendants told Mada Masr earlier that many of the defendants confessed to the murder of the policeman under torture. The defendants’ families corroborated this, adding that they were held in inhumane conditions in Mansoura prison, where they were denied access to medical treatment. A number of them were forcibly disappeared in March 2014, for periods that ranged from a week to several months.

One of the defendants, Bassem Mohsen, was missing for three months and was reportedly tortured in the notorious Al-Azouly prison. Three other defendants reportedly faced similar conditions in Al-Aqrab prison.

This is the third in a series of final rulings sentencing defendants to death since hundreds of Morsi supporters were handed death sentences after the former president’s ousting in 2013. Many of these death sentences were overturned on appeal, but two were upheld: A military court ruling against six defendants in the case of the Arab Sharkas cell in May 2015, and against Adel Habara, who was accused of killing 25 soldiers in North Sinai in 2014. Habara was executed in December 2016.

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