UN human rights experts urge Egypt to release four minors facing death sentences


Egyptian authorities are urged by UN human rights experts to release four minors who have been tried after being arrested without a warrant and forced to make confessions under torture.  They are now facing death sentences in a mass trial whose verdict is expected on Monday, March 09.

The urgent appeal by the UN experts comes after the recent adoption of the Opinion (No. 2019/65) of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concerning the four minors, who have been tried before a military court along with more than 300 individuals. The WGAD opinion recommends that the four minors be released.

After their arrest, the minors were held incommunicado for several months, tortured to obtain confession and denied their right to a fair trial. Their confessions obtained through torture were reportedly introduced into the court proceedings as evidence despite such tainted evidence being inadmissible. In view of these facts, the Working Group has declared their detention arbitrary.

“Furthermore, capital punishment would run counter to the duty of Egypt under international law that requires the death sentence to be only permissible for offences which meet the ‘most serious crimes’ threshold, as established in article 6 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty Egypt has signed and ratified,” the experts said.

“Moreover, the death penalty must never be applied to juveniles, this is a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is also no legal justification to try these minors, who are civilians, by a military court.

“This mass trial procedure falls significantly short of the standard for a fair trial, given that it is impossible to conduct a specified legal assessment of the individual responsibility of the accused in accordance with the international norms,” the experts added. “Such mass trials are incompatible with the interests of justice or human rights.”

“Under certain circumstances, widespread or systematic imprisonment or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of the rules of international law could constitute crimes against humanity,” said experts.

“We reiterate our call to the Government of Egypt to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of the four minors. The appropriate remedy would be to release them and accord them an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law, and to prevent the application of the death penalty in all of their cases, whatever the outcome,” they said.

This case is one of many others in the past five years in which the Working Group has found the Government of Egypt to be in violation of its international human rights obligations. The UN experts are concerned that this indicates a systemic problem with arbitrary detention in Egypt. (Source: OHCHR)