Since the release of Reprieve’s ground-breaking report on the death penalty in Egypt in 2019, exposing the magnitude of Egypt’s use of capital punishment in the years following the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s mass trial complex shows no sign of slowing. By analysing information collected by Reprieve’s partners in Egypt, this report highlights the unprecedented levels of violence Egypt’s current regime is wielding against its own citizens:
- Egypt remains fifth in global rankings for executions. Between 2018 and the end of 2020, Egypt carried out at least 241 executions. The vast majority of these executions were in 2020, when Egypt executed at least 152 people, the highest number of annual executions on record.
- At least 25 people are currently at risk of imminent execution.
- There are widespread and well-founded concerns that Egypt’s criminal justice system cannot afford defendants the basic guarantees of due process and fair trial rights.
- Mass trials continue to proceed despite widespread international condemnation that they are simply unfit to meet the basic requirements of international fair trial protections. There have been at least 53 mass trials since 2011, in which 2,182 people were sentenced to death.
- Egypt has continued to used mass trials to issue death sentences in the last three years; at least 213 people have been sentenced to death in mass trials since 2018, a quarter of all death sentences in that period. In the same period, at least 27 people were executed after being convicted in mass trials.
- Egypt continues to sentence children to death in contravention of both domestic and international law. At least 17 children have received preliminary death sentences since 2011.
- Civilians are being tried in military courts at an unprecedented rate. There are concerns that proceedings in these courts are even less likely to adhere to international fair trial obligations; between 2017 and 2020, at least 55 people received the death penalty before military courts.
- Changes in 2017 to the law to truncate the appeals process have now been fully implemented by Egypt’s judiciary; since 2018, at least 202 death sentences have been upheld by Egypt’s highest court, the Court of Cassation.
- The escalating use of the death penalty is even more concerning in the context of the systemic use of torture by the authorities, often to obtain a “confession”.
- The decimation of fair trial procedures has affected both those who have been targeted for involvement in real or perceived political dissent, as well as the 153 people executed for non-political criminal charges since 2018.
Based on the findings of this report, it is now clearer than ever that Egypt is using the death penalty as a tool of repression. The death penalty is the ultimate abuse of state power. In Egypt, it is being wielded by a regime which makes use of systemic torture, stifles the rights to free assembly and expression, and condemns those who exercise these internationally-protected rights – including children – as terrorists.
Since 2019, Egyptian authorities have moved to further shrink and limit civil society activity through the passing of draconian laws, and have waged a campaign of arrests of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and academics. The international community can no longer stand silent. It must call on Egypt to restrict its use of the death penalty, comply with its international obligations, and ensure that any justice sector cooperation is contingent on Egyptian authorities:
- Ending the use of the death penalty in cases involving children, and
- Ending the use of mass trials and torture.