Egypt sentenced nearly 600 to death last year

November 16, 2015

The Egyptian government has sentenced nearly 600 people to death in the last year, with the vast majority of death sentences handed down in relation to political protest, human rights organization Reprieve has found.

Data collected by Reprieve has found that since January 2014, at least 588 people have been sentenced to death in Egypt. In the cases that Reprieve was able to identify, some 72% of sentences were handed down for attending pro-democracy protests.

Reprieve’s report, released today, also found that the Egyptian authorities are overseeing a marked rise in actual executions. Between 2011 and 2013, only one execution was carried out in Egypt; but since January 2014, some months after President Sisi seized power, at least 27 people have been executed. The report also finds that least 15 mass trials have taken place since March 2014.

Since taking power, President Sisi has overseen a regime of mass trials and sweeping death sentences for protestors – sometimes involving hundreds of prisoners at a time. Among those on trial and facing a potential death sentence is Irish teenager Ibrahim Halawa, who is being assisted by Reprieve. Yesterday, it was revealed that Ibrahim has witnessed torture methods including ‘crucifixion’ and electrocution being carried out in Wadi Natrun prison, where he is being held.

Mr Halawa’s family were last week joined by several British MPs in asking the UK to intervene on the case, during President Sisi’s visit to London for talks with the Prime Minister. The Foreign Office has told Reprieve that the UK is ‘monitoring’ Ibrahim’s case, and has said that it has been raised with the Egyptian authorities.

However, there are concerns over the UK government’s apparent support for the Egyptian security forces. Reprieve has found that the British government invited security and policing firm G4S to be part of the UK delegation at a recent major Egyptian trade conference hosted by President Sisi.

Commenting, Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim Halawa, said:

“President Sisi has overseen an unprecedented surge in death sentences as part of a wave of repression that should attract condemnation from Egypt’s allies. Since 2013, many thousands of people – including journalists, activists and juveniles like Ibrahim Halawa – have been locked up for attending protests. Police torture is reported all too often, and Kafkaesque ‘mass trials’ have seen hundreds of death sentences handed down at a time. More than ever, the UK must use its increasingly close relationship with Egypt to urge an end to these terrible abuses – including the release of juveniles like Ibrahim.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140

2. Reprieve’s report on the death penalty in Egypt is here.

3. For more information on Ibrahim Halawa’s case, see the Reprieve website