Scale of Egypt’s death penalty crisis revealed

May 27, 2019

Image of president Sisi signing a document

In President Abdelfattah el-Sisi’s first five years in power, his regime handed preliminary death sentences to more than 2,400 people, a Reprieve report reveals.

Mass Injustice: Statistical Findings on the Death Penalty in Egypt examines Egypt’s death penalty crisis in unprecedented detail.

The accompanying database contains information relating to 2,595 individuals referred for preliminary death sentences from 25 January 2011 to 23 September 2018, including name, date of arrest, where and when trials took place, the offences charged, and the procedural status of the case. It is viewable online and available for download, including the raw dataset.

Of these 2,595 individuals, 11 were children (under the age of 18) at the time of their alleged offences. Sentencing a child to death is a grave violation of both Egyptian and international law.

The use of the death penalty in Egypt has climbed sharply since el-Sisi came to power. From 3 July 2013 (the date former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted) to 23 September 2018 (the end date for the study), 2,443 people received preliminary death sentences.

Of these, 1,884 death sentences were handed down in mass trials in which 15 or more defendants were tried simultaneously. During el-Sisi’s tenure, at least 45 such trials have resulted in death sentences.

Defendants in mass trials are routinely sentenced to death on trumped-up terrorism charges related to the exercise of fundamental rights such as freedom of assembly. In some cases, defendants receive death sentences for alleged lethal offences they did not commit. In others, people are sentenced to death on nebulous, non-lethal charges related to “membership” in alleged terrorist organisations.

Reprieve Director Maya Foa said: “This report makes clear that President el-Sisi’s regime is committing human rights violations on an unprecedented scale, even when compared to former dictator Hosni Mubarak. The report’s findings should shame the western politicians who have lent legitimacy and assistance to el-Sisi’s repressive rule. Egypt’s international partners must insist on an end to the systematic use of the death penalty against people exercising their right to protest.”