Alarm as executions rise in Egypt

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during closure of the 32nd Ordinary Session of the African Union (AU) Summit at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on February 11, 2019.

Photo credit: Simon Maina | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Since 2013, Egyptian authorities have arrested, tried and executed former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist group. Many face long prison sentences.
  • Civil rights groups reported last week that 26 prisoners were executed while Middle East rights watchdog, We Record, said at least 15 of those hanged were political prisoners.

Egyptian authorities are facing criticism following the execution of at least two dozen prisoners even as the United Nations campaigns against capital punishment.

Civil rights groups reported last week that 26 prisoners were executed while Middle East rights watchdog, We Record, said at least 15 of those hanged were political prisoners.

“The Interior Ministry carried out the death sentence against political detainees Yasser Abasiri, 49, and Yasser Shakr, 45, in the case known in the media as the events of the Library of Alexandria,” the organisation said of the executions.

Local media had reported that only six prisoners had been executed for the crime.

Authorities said the penalty was meted on those found guilty by courts.

Fairness questions

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the executions, saying the men’s trials may have been unfair.

Since 2013, Egyptian authorities have arrested, tried and executed former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, considered a terrorist group. Many face long prison sentences.

We Record said the executions “have been extended to include all other political and ideological currents that might form a seed of opposition to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi”.

Egypt carried out at least one execution a day last year.

It has joined the list of top executioners globally, the other being China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, according to a tally by Amnesty International.

The US is the only nation in the developed world that carries out regular executions. Japan too hangs prisoners.

The executions in Egypt came as the UN marked the World Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10.

The UN, rights groups, legal minds and other experts argue that there is often a high risk of killing innocent people as many cannot afford proper representation during trial.

Death penalty

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said capital punishment “has no place in the 21st century, given the lack of evidence that it deters crimes”.

“Perpetrators of crimes must be held accountable and punished. However, the experience of abolitionist countries has shown that the death penalty does not deter violent crimes or contribute to a safer society,” European Union High Representative Josep Fontelles and Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić said in a joint statement.

“On the contrary, killing as a punishment perpetuates a cycle of senseless violence.”

Some 170 members of the UN have either abolished the death penalty or no longer practise it.

The Officer of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says countries should remove the penalty their laws.

It says doing so will reduce or do away with mental torture for those condemned to death.

Some 20 countries reported executions in 2019, the lowest in history.

Overall, some 106 nations have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, eight others for ordinary crimes but execute those found guilty of terrorism, murder and treason.

Twenty eight countries have abolished the death penalty in practice although it still in their statute books while 56 others practise it.

amutambo@ke.nationmedia.com