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Egypt: Twelve dissidents face execution while security forces enjoy impunity over Rabaa massacre

 The Egyptian authorities have failed to hold to account a single member of security forces for killing at least 900 people during their violent dispersal of sit-ins in Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda squares, Amnesty International said today on the eve of the eighth anniversary of the massacre. Twelve men are facing imminent execution and hundreds of others are serving lengthy prison terms over their involvement in the protests, demonstrating the warped priorities of Egypt’s so-called justice system. 

In June 2021, Egypt’s highest appeals court, the Court of Cassation, upheld death sentences against the 12 men, who include senior figures in the Muslim Brotherhood, convicted in a mass sham trial involving 739 people in 2018, known as the “Rabaa dispersal case”. Their executions can be carried out at any moment without warning, as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has ratified their final death sentences. 

“Over the past eight years, it has become increasingly clear that the Egyptian authorities are intent on shielding security forces from any accountability for their role in the Rabaa massacre. Authorities have instead chosen to exact revenge on survivors, families of victims, and anyone who dares to criticize the dire human rights situation in today’s Egypt,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“The 12 men facing execution are being held in cruel and inhuman conditions as they await their deaths, following a grossly unfair and politically-motivated mass trial. We are urging the Egyptian authorities to quash these unjust death sentences and convictions. They must also take long overdue steps to bring perpetrators of the Rabaa massacre to justice. 

“If this impunity continues, Egypt will forever be haunted by the terrible events of that day. Given the prevailing climate of impunity, the international community must also support efforts to establish a monitoring mechanism on the human rights situation in Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council.”

If this impunity continues, Egypt will forever be haunted by the terrible events of that day.

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International

Since their arrests between 2013 and 2015, the men have been held in appalling conditions which violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment and have been deliberately denied access to adequate health care. Some have been barred from any family visits for over five years. 

Among those facing execution is Mohamed el-Beltagy, a former parliamentarian and senior figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, who has been held in solitary confinement at Cairo’s notorious Scorpion prison since his arrest in August 2013. His family have been barred from visiting him since 2016. Prison authorities have cruelly denied his relatives’ attempts to give him a picture of his daughter Asmaa, who was 17 years old when she was killed in the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya square.

Brothers Mohamed and Mostafa Abdelhai Hussein al-Faramawy share a dark and poorly ventilated small cell, which does not have a toilet, in Wadi al-Natroun prison. They were arrested on 15 July 2013, a month before protesters were even dispersed in Rabaa al-Adawiya square, and yet sentenced to death over their alleged involvement.

Egyptian authorities do not announce scheduled executions ahead of time and fail to inform families or grant them final visits, in contravention to Egyptian law, raising fears that the executions may be carried out imminently. There has recently been an alarming spike in recorded executions in Egypt – in 2020, executions tripled compared to previous years. The execution spree continued in 2021 with at least 81 executions recorded so far.

“The Egyptian authorities must immediately put an end to their ruthless use of the death penalty against political opponents as a tool to instil fear and consolidate their iron grip on power. Members of the international community must step up their public pressure to call on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to commute these death sentences and save these men’s lives,” said Lynn Maalouf.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life; it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Background

The 12 men were convicted of participation in unauthorized protests, the murder of seven members of the security forces and 10 others, attempted murder and other charges in relation to their involvement in the Rabaa al-Adawiya Square sit-in and other protests and clashes between supporters and opponents of former president Mohamed Morsi, which occurred between 21 June and 14 August 2013.

All defendants were convicted of all charges, without individual criminal responsibility being established. The proceedings were marred by violations of fair trial rights, including the right to adequate defence; the right not to self-incriminate; the right to be tried by a competent, impartial and independent tribunal; the right to call and examine witnesses and the right to a genuine review. Courts also failed to order investigations into some of the defendants’ claims of being forcibly disappeared and tortured following arrest.

Since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from power in 2013, the Egyptian authorities have engaged in an unrelenting crackdown on all forms of dissent. Authorities have rounded up tens of thousands of actual or perceived critics and opponents. Thousands continue to be detained arbitrarily solely for exercising rights guaranteed under international law, including the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, or on the basis of grossly unfair trials, including mass and military trials.  Dozens have been executed following grossly unfair trials.