For Immediate Release: March 26, 2014
Contact: Chelsea Bond
In response to a regional court in Egypt sentencing to death 529 defendants in one day, Death Penalty Focus has called on the Egyptian government to abolish the death penalty to prevent further human rights abuses.
The 529 death sentences were handed down by the criminal court of Minya, in southern Egypt, on March 24. Convictions ranged from charges of murdering a police officer, storming and burning a police station in Minya, to stealing weapons and releasing inmates. The court held just two brief sessions, during which the defendants’ lawyers complained that they had no chance to present their case, before reaching its verdict. An additional 683 people were put on trial on March 25, with death sentences also possible.
The mass death sentences have prompted a chorus of condemnation from around the world. For example, Marie Harf, speaking on behalf of the US State Department, said that the sentences “represent a flagrant disregard for basic standards of justice”.
Death Penalty Focus argues that not only was the summary judgment a clear violation of the defendants’ right to a fair trial, but that any use of the death penalty is a violation of the fundamental right to life.
“This Egyptian court is using the death penalty as a tool for vengeance not justice,” said Matt Cherry, executive director of Death Penalty Focus. “The international community should press not only for fair trials in Egypt, but also for the Egyptian government to impose an immediate moratorium on all death sentences and executions. By its very nature, the death penalty is cruel and irreversible. That is why it has been abandoned by the majority of the world’s nations, including every Western nation except one. This week’s mass death sentences in Egypt demonstrate why that one exception, the United States of America, needs to catch up with the rest of the West and show by its own example that the death penalty has no place in a modern justice system.”
Founded in 1988, Death Penalty Focus is one of the largest nonprofit advocacy organizations in the world dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment through public education; grassroots and political organizing; original research; media outreach; local, state and nationwide coalition building; and the education of religious, legislative and civic leaders about the death penalty and its alternatives.