Egypt death sentences near 2,000, amid fears for Irish student

December 17, 2016

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

Egypt has sentenced at least 1,857 people to death since the Sisi Government began trying political protestors and others en masse, according to figures collated by human rights organization Reprieve.

The Egyptian Government has sharply increased the use of the death penalty since President Sisi took power in July 2013, amid a crackdown on dissent that has seen several thousand arrests – including of juveniles, activists, protestors and journalists. Earlier this month, human rights activists in Egypt told reporters that state repression had reached ‘chilling’ levels.

According to Reprieve’s figures:

  • At least 1,857 individuals have been sentenced to death in Egypt since 1 January 2014
  • Some 891 additional individuals are currently on trial or awaiting trial on charges that could carry a death sentence;
  • 34 individuals have been executed since 1 January 2014. In the three years before Sisi came to power, Egypt had carried out one execution;
  • At least 2 juveniles are currently on trial alongside adults, facing charges that could carry a death sentence.

The figures follow new fears over the fate of 494 prisoners undergoing a mass trial in relation to protests – including an Irish student, Ibrahim Halawa, who was a child when he was arrested. The trial of the 494 was last week postponed for the 17th time since it began in 2014. Each postponement of the proceedings has extended the detention of Ibrahim and his co-defendants, who report regular torture in prison.

Reprieve has discovered that, despite significant concerns over the use of Egypt’s courts for abuses, European countries are involved in support for the Egyptian justice sector. Under a 10m Euro project overseen by the European Union, a consortium of European bodies have provided training and equipment for Egypt’s court system – including juvenile courts.

Particular concerns have been raised in Italy – where a group of judges are involved in the project – in light of the death earlier this year of Italian student Giulio Regeni, apparently at the hands of Egyptian security forces.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“Since taking power, President Sisi has overseen a staggering increase in the use of the death penalty in Egypt. Nearly 2,000 people have been sentenced to death in the last three years, while many more have been tortured and put through shockingly unfair mass trials. The ordeal of Ibrahim Halawa, who was arrested as a child and who faces the death penalty, shows how Sisi continues to use the courts as a tool of punishment. The EU – which helps fund Egypt’s court system – must call for the release of prisoners like Ibrahim, while countries like the UK should do likewise.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] / +1 917 855 8064.

2. Further detail on Ibrahim Halawa’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here.