The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights today strongly condemned the imposition of the death penalty on hundreds of people in Egypt, after mass trials that she said clearly breached international human rights law.
"It is outrageous that for the second time in two months, the Sixth Chamber of the Criminal Court in Al-Minya has imposed the death sentence on huge groups of defendants after perfunctory trials," High Commissioner Navi Pillay said in remarks read out by her spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani in Geneva.
According to information received, some of the 683 defendants sentenced yesterday were charged with killing a policeman and breaking into the Edwa police station in Al-Minya on 14 August 2013.
This legal decision follows the 24 March conviction of 529 defendants on charges that include membership in an unlawful organization (the Muslim Brotherhood), incitement to violence, vandalism, unlawful gathering and the killing of one police officer. All the charges relate to events in August 2013 after the Government of President Mohamed Morsi was ousted.
As in the previous cases, the exact charges against each defendant are not clear, given that they were not individually read out in court.
Ms. Pillay lashed out at the verdicts made "at the hands of a judicial system where international fair trial guarantees appear to be increasingly trampled upon."
She noted that Egypt has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and said that "it is high time that Egypt takes its human rights commitments seriously."
In a news release from her Office (OHCHR), Ms. Pillay stressed that the death penalty can only be applied for the most serious crimes and after the most stringent trial safeguards.
"This has clearly not been the case in these two trials before the Al-Minya criminal court. A mass trial of hundreds of people, rife with procedural irregularities is simply not good enough for imposition of the death penalty," she reiterated.