Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Enough is enough : Egypt

Very disturbed to read how two trials in Egypt earlier this year resulted in 720 people being sentenced to death.
According to the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, the trials were very unfair, commenting that :
"The majority of the defendants were tried in absentia and no specific evidence was put forward by the prosecution in respect of individual defendants. Defence lawyers were not allowed to call witnesses, present their own cases or cross examine on the prosecution case. The trial of the 529 defendants was concluded in only two short sessions... No consideration was provided as to the evidence against each individual defendant, nor any reference to the standard of proof...In particular, defence lawyers claim that there is evidence which proves that a large percentage of the convicted were not even present at the scene of the Minya events last August."
This comes against a backdrop of systemic violence and abuse in Egypts legal system, according to Amnesty International. A report by the human rights organisation points out that :
"Amnesty International has gathered damning evidence indicating that torture is routine in police stations and unofficial places of detention, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters particularly targeted. It is carried out by both the Egyptian military and police including in premises belonging to the National Security Agency, in many cases with the objective of obtaining confessions or to force detainees to implicate others. Among the methods of torture employed are techniques previously used by state security during Mubarak’s rule. These include the use of electric shocks, rape, handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors"
Amnesty also point out that :
"Egypt is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 14 of which guarantee the right of everyone to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The article further guarantees the right of everyone facing criminal charges to be informed promptly of the nature and cause of the charges against them; the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence; the right to be tried in their presence; and the right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them. Article 6 of the ICCPR states that, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the ICCPR."
So sent this to to Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif (contact.Us@mfa.gov.eg) and two addresses at the Egyptian Consulate in the UK (Egypt.culture@btconnect.com , info@egpressoffice.com)
"I have been very disturbed to hear about the mass death sentences handed down to over 700 people earlier this year in Egypt. So far as I can tell, the trial was very flawed and the defendents (many of whom claim to have been elsewhere at the times the crimes were committed) had little chance to defend themselves.

Separately, I am also appalled to read in reports by Amnesty that torture, rape and electric shocks are routinely used on detainees.

Egypt should be ashamed that it has allowed these unfair trials and routine use of torture to happen. As well as causing me to lose respect for Egypt, these actions also give ammunition to those who say that Muslim countries are incapable of governing themselves without becoming violent, intolerant, dictatorships."


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