Rights group condemns Egypt’s mass executions

Human Rights Watch calls Egypt’s killing of 49 prisoners in 10 days ‘outrageous’.

A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian policman standing guard at the Tora prison
Of the 49 killed, 15 were men convicted for alleged involvement in political violence [File: Khaled Desouki/AFP]

Egypt executed 49 prisoners in just 10 days in October, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday, calling on authorities to immediately halt carrying out death sentences.

“Egypt’s mass executions of scores of people in a matter of days is outrageous,” HRW’s Joe Stork said.

The rights group said it compiled the executions between October 3 and 13 from reports in pro-government newspapers as these killings are not typically announced – or even the prisoner’s family informed, the group said.

“The systematic absence of fair trials in Egypt, especially in political cases, makes every death sentence a violation of the right to life,” Stork added.

Two women were among the executed. Of the 49 killed, 15 were convicted of alleged involvement in political violence following the military overthrow in July 2013 of Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi.

Morsi hailed from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s oldest Islamist group. Since his removal, authorities banned the group and rounded up most of its leaders, including the ex-president.

Morsi collapsed in a court last year – a death that human rights activists said was evidence of the “inhumane living conditions” in Egyptian prisons.

Some executed were found guilty in three separate cases including 10 prisoners accused of carrying out attacks in 2014 for the armed group Ajnad Masrm (Soldiers of Egypt).

Another three were executed for their alleged involvement in a 2013 attack on a police station in the Kerdassa suburb of Cairo, and two others for a violent demonstration in Alexandria in 2013.

Prison attack

The New York-based rights group said 13 of this month’s executions took place in Cairo’s notorious supermax facility known as Scorpion following clashes last month inside the death row ward that left four policemen and four inmates dead.

At the time, authorities said the four prisoners, who had been sentenced to death in separate terrorism-related cases, were killed during an escape attempt.

However, the Human Rights Watch statement cited an anonymous human rights lawyer who challenged the government’s account after having spoken with relatives of two of the inmates. The lawyer said the four prisoners ambushed and fatally stabbed the guards during a routine inspection. Other inmates later saw security forces enter the cell and gunshots were heard.

“Egypt has had a pattern of judicial and suspicious extrajudicial killings following attacks on security forces or civilians in recent years,” the HRW statement said.

Other prisoners put to death had been sentenced for crimes including murder and rape.

An Egyptian government media officer could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

HRW estimates since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was elected in 2014, Egypt has become one of the top 10 countries in the world carrying out death sentences.

Source: AFP, News Agencies