African Commission Orders Egypt to Suspend Death Sentences

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(London – PR) The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (The Commission) has requested that the Egyptian Interim Authority immediately suspends the penalties of 529 people who were sentenced to death following a court hearing in Minya, Egypt on 22nd March. The Order comes as part of a package of interim measures, which were ordered following a complaint submitted by the Freedom & Justice Party (JFP) on behalf of the 529 people sentenced to death.

The complaint submitted to the Commission by the FJP’s international legal team details serious violations of the African Charter and international human rights standards. The complaint details how the Criminal Court in Minya conducted a hearing that lasted less than one hour and purported to deal with five hundred and forty five defendants on various alleged crimes including the murder of a policeman in August 2013, the attempt to kill two other persons in the alleged incident, damaging public property, illegal public assembly and membership of a banned organisation in Egypt. The complaint states that despite the complexity of the allegations the Court managed to find 529 defendants guilty and collectively sentenced them to death.

The Commission has noted, in a letter addressed to the Interim Authority’s President, Mr Adly Mansour, that the ‘number of people allegedly sentenced to death is the highest recorded in the recent past from a single mass trial’ and ‘the manner in which the death penalty was imposed may therefore violate international and regional standards’. It has asked the Egyptian Authorities to answer charges that the trial of the men was a ‘complete sham’ and constitutes ‘collective punishment’.

The Commission, which is a principle part of the African Union, also ordered that Egypt upholds the African Union’s moratorium on the death penalty and allows those sentenced to death a proper appeal process. The interim Regime has 15 days from being notified of the Orders to report back on the implementation of the measures.

The intervention by the Commission comes at a crucial point in legal process; as the Grand Mufti of Egypt is due to confirm the death penalties on Monday 28th April 2014. The credibility of Egypt’s legal system is at an all time low as the Courts continue to mete out the harshest sentences for relatively minor allegations without proper due process. On Sunday a Court in Egypt sentenced 11 supporters of President Morsi to prison terms ranging from 5 to 88 years for participating in protests that followed the coup. Thousands of people including members of the elected government, journalists and lawyers remain in detention in very poor conditions, some of whom have alleged that they have been tortured.

Following the July 2013 coup d’état in Egypt thousands of protestors gathered on the streets of Egypt to oppose the coup and show support of the democratic process, which led to the election of Egypt’s first non-military President. In an unprecedented show of force the interim authority used extreme violence to suppress the protests resulting in the death of over 2000 protestors and the injury of many thousands more. The interim authority has failed to investigate hold or anyone accountable for these actions, which have been described as a ‘crime against humanity’.

Tayab Ali, Partner of leading London law firm ITN Solicitors who represents the Freedom & Justice Party said ‘We are very grateful to the African Commission for taking such rapid and clear steps to prevent serious violations of international law. It is hoped that the death penalties, which are clearly being used to repress political dissent in Egypt, will now be prevented’.
The African Union is a collective of African States bound by their ratification of the African Charter. Egypt is a member of the African Union and its membership has been suspended as a result of the coup d’état in July 2013.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is a principle section of the African Union

The Freedom and Justice Party is a political party in Egypt. It is the party the of the first democratically elected President, Mohammed Morsi.

The Freedom & Justice Party are represented by Tayab Ali of ITN Solicitors and the international legal team includes prominent lawyers Lord Ken Macdonald QC, Prof. John Dugard SC, Rodney Dixon QC, Michael Mansfield QC and Stephen Kamlish QC
ITN solicitors are a leading Criminal and Human Rights law firm based in London. Further details at www.itnsolicitors.com

Tayab Ali is solicitor advocate and partner at ITN Solicitors www.itnsolicitors.com

Lord Ken Macdonald QC is a barrister at Matrix Chambers www.matrixlaw.co.uk

Professor John Dugard SC is a door tenant at 20 Essex Street Chambers www.20essexst.com

Rodney Dixon QC is a barrister at Temple Garden Chambers www.tbchambers.com

Michael Mansfield QC is a barrister and head of Mansfield Chambers

Stephen Kamlish QC is a barrister at Garden Court Chambers www.gardencourtchambers.co.uk/

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