Human rights organisations reject the government’s prioritization of the release of the seven kidnapped soldiers in Sinai over the fight against injustice suffered by the local population

May 21st, 2013 by Editor

The undersigned Egyptian human rights organizations have spoken out against the portrayal of the current crisis in Sinai, which broke out after seven soldiers were abducted in the region. They claim that there is a tension between the release of the seven kidnapped soldiers on the one hand, and the abolishment of injustice suffered by the people of Sinai on the other, such as prisoners detained in violation of the law. These human rights organisations warned that the authorities’ response to the security situation was short-sighted since it only sought the release of the abducted soldiers without addressing the roots of the current crisis. This occured because of the state’s disregard for the most basic rules of law and justice and because of its refusal to respond to related demands continuously made by the people of Sinai and its prisoners after years of chronic injustice.

 

The undersigned organisations stressed that any solution to the current crisis must ensure the release and safety of the abducted soldiers, and at the same time must respond to the legitimate demands of the people of Sinai, who have failed in all their peaceful and legal endeavours over the years to make their voices heard to the capital’s rulers. The undersigned organisations emphasized their rejection of the death penalty in principle, and strongly condemned official statements issued by government officials and the armed forces that allege the illegality or impossibility of abolishing Sinai’s arbitrary death sentences. Without a single exception, these death sentences were issued after exceptionally unfair trials under the notorious ‘emergency law’ courts and took place during the rule of Mubarak, the military council and the Muslim Brotherhood alike.

 

With respect to the case of the Taba bombings, human rights organisations have confirmed that five Sinai defendants are currently being detained in­­­­ direct violation of the provisions explicitly contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure. The defendants were arrested under emergency law in 2005 and were locked up pending a trial in January 2006; however, they have remained in custody for more than seven years, despite the fact that crimes punishable by death or life imprisonment are legally restricted to a maximum remand period of two years. The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights of the African Union issued a ruling in 2012 in favour of the Taba defendants in a lawsuit filed against the Egyptian government because of the violation of their rights to a fair trial and protection from torture. However, the Military Council merely ordered a re-trial under another court dealing with emergency law, which sentenced them to death based on the same secret inquiries and invalid evidence extracted from them through torture a number of years ago.

As for the prisoners sentenced in the case dealing with the attack on the second precinct in Al-Arish, a city in North Sinai, their death sentence was issued by the Supreme Court for National Security under emergency law in September 2012, after Muhammad Mursi had taken the presidency and although the state of emergency had been lifted in May 2012. The human rights organisations have stressed their firm stance since the 1990s against death sentences by extraordinary emergency courts as a flagrant violation of the right to life and a clear violation of international law. The rights organisations added that the issued death sentences in this case are not final – even according to the emergency law itself – as the defence has the option to submit a complaint against a sentence that has not yet been ratified. They also added that the president of the republic has until this moment the power to issue an order for a re-trial before the Criminal Court guaranteeing the victims’ right to justice and the defendants’ right to a fair trial.

The human rights organisations stressed that the way the country deals with the crisis of the kidnapped soldiers, in whatever form that may be, must be subject to the law and the principles of necessity and proportionality, rejecting any form of collective punishment for the population of Sinai.

Finally, the undersigned organisations to this statement emphasised that the radical solution for this protracted crisis in Sinai begins and ends with the end of the political and economic marginalisation of the population of Sinai and with the return of their rights and the lifting of the acts of injustice against them.

Signatories:

  1. 1.     The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  2. 2.     The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights
  3. 3.     The Cairo Centre for the Study of Human Rights
  4. 4.     The Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
  5. 5.     The Hisham Mubarak Law Centre
  6. 6.     Act Egypt
  7. 7.     The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights
  8. 8.     The Foundation for Freedom of Thought and Expression

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