Final death sentence verdict for six in the Mansoura Guard case after a trial that lacked the fair trial standards, The Egyptian Initiative: Firm respect of law and human rights standards are the first steps to face violence
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) expresses its utmost worry about the implementation of six death penalty sentences after they were upheld by the Court of Cassation on Wednesday, June 7th, 2017, in case no. 16850 for the year 2014 before the Mansoura Criminal Court, commonly known as the “Mansoura Guard” case. According to the families of the defendants, the latter were subjected to several human rights violations during the process of the trial, including enforced disappearances, torture, forced confessions, and the lack of a fair trial.
This is not the first time that death sentences are being given after a judicial process that lacks the basic elements of a fair trial; this is also the case when civilians are tried before military tribunals, and due to the lack of investigation into enforced disappearances, torture and allegations of forced confessions thereunder.
Abdullah Metwally, a security guard of one of the judges trying former president Mohamed Morsi in the “Ettehadiya” case, was killed on February 28th, 2014, in Mansoura. 24 people were accused of his murder, along with other charges that include establishing and joining a group formed against the law, and providing it with money and weapons. Nine people were sentenced to death by the Mansoura Criminal Court on September 7th, 2015, including one defendant in absentia. The case was appealed before the Court of Cassation, which upheld the death penalty for six defendants on June 7th, 2017.
This case has several instances of human rights violations, documented through the defendants’ families and court papers that EIPR was able to obtain. Such violations include torture, the lack of fair trial, forced confessions, and enforced disappearances. EIPR was able to obtain copies of some official complaints and telegraphs made by the defendants’ families to the public prosecution and the first public lawyer in Dakahlia, according to which the defendants in praesentia were subjected to enforced disappearances, starting early March 2014 and until their arrest order was issued by the public prosecution in June of the same year.
All six defendants sentenced to death were subjected to torture for up to nine weeks. The defendants recanted the confessions made under torture, and asserted that the severity of torture allegedly made them consent to memorize police stories that confirm the charges against them. Furthermore, the defendants’ lawyers were not present in such interrogations, as maintained in the defense appeals.
The judicial procedures raise concerns around this having been a fair trial, in clear opposition to Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial before an "independent and impartial tribunal." Moreover, neither the allegations of torture nor recanted confessions were investigated, in violations of the Egyptian law. Article 52 of the Egyptian constitution states that “all forms of torture are a crime with no statute of limitations,” and article 55 maintains that detainees “may not be tortured, terrorized, or coerced. They may not be physically or mentally harmed, or arrested and confined in designated locations that are appropriate according to humanitarian and health standards.” Therefore, inflicting torture is “a crime and the perpetrator shall be punished under the law,” under the same article.
According to Article 470 0f the Criminal Procedures, the president of the republic has the power to reduce the death sentence through issuing a presidential decree of mitigation within 14 days. He actually mitigated the death sentence of Mohamed Hussein on January 22, 2017. After the defendant was sentenced to death for murdering a child, the Egyptian president issued decree no. 50 for the year 2017, which reduced the defendant’s sentence to life in prison. There are five days left for him to exercise this right in the Mansoura case.
EIPR reasserts that the increasing use of death sentences by the Egyptian state as a form of punishment in cases of terrorism or cases labeled as ‘political,’ following trials that do not meet the standards of a fair trial, is far from being a seemingly efficient method of facing violence. EIPR asserts once again that firm respect of the law and relevant human rights standards are the first successful steps for that encounter.