By: Jordan Hart
Hisham Barakat, former prosecutor of Egypt, was assassinated in June of 2015 when a bomb struck his car. In February, 9 men were executed by the means of hanging in a Cairo prison. There are only a few examples of 15 overall execution within Egypt since the beginning of the year. Those executed were suspected members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed group of overthrown President Mohamed Morsi.
President Sisi of Egypt did not allow for a fair trial, but instead tortured confessions out of each man; this highlights not only his continued crackdown on Islamists groups but also his disregard for human rights. Al Jazeera comments that hundreds of Morsi supporters, majority being Islamic, have been sentenced to death under President Sisi’s reign and that many of these death sentences were handed down at mass trials lasting just days. These hasty mass trials have become increasingly common throughout Egypt.
The state does have a history of capital punishment going back as far as 2014. During the coup d’état, an Egyptian judge sentenced 683 alleged supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood to death (only 37 of these deaths were confirmed). More recently, however, 44 executions were documented in 2016 and at least 35 in 2017. These executions were carried out in two different ways: civilians were hung, military personnel executed by firing squad.
In May of last year, President al-Sisi signed a draconian new law giving the authorities broad powers to deny NGOs registration, dismiss their boards of administration, and even dissolve them entirely. This law also infringed even further on journalistic freedom by providing for five years of imprisonment for publishing research without government permission. Information is difficult to not only gather, but also get out to the public because of such strict laws limiting speech and press. This ceiling placed on NGOs also threatens the protection of the citizens’ human rights that are being violated constantly.
The U.N. and Amnesty International have both been vocal for years about the need for change in Egypt in regards to their capital punishment policy and violation of human rights. In 2018, five independent U.N. human rights experts said that Egypt must stop executions until it has reviewed all death sentences and retry any convictions that are found to rest on unfair trials (Reuters). Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director stated that “by carrying out the executions of these nine men today, Egypt has demonstrated an absolute disregard for the right of life.”
Eight years after the revolution, Egyptian people are facing an unprecedented attack on freedom of expression without any means of enforcement to prevent more cases from arising. There is no justice in the Egyptian court system, as we saw from the recent executions, and there is a dire need for immediate reform.