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UN Urges Egypt to Stop Executions Based on Forced Confessions


Family members of those convicted and executed for the killing of public prosecutor Hisham Barakat gather at Zynhom morgue in Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 20, 2019, as they wait for their bodies to be released.

The U.N. Human Rights Office is urging Egypt to halt all executions and to conduct investigations into all allegations that people are subjected to the death penalty based on confessions obtained under torture.

Egypt has executed 15 people in February and the U.N. Human Rights Office notes the month is not yet over. The agency reports nine people were executed this week in a case related to the killing of Egypt’s General Prosecutor, Hisham Barakat.

Regarding six other killings earlier this month, it says three men were convicted of assassinating a police officer and three others in connection with the murder of the son of a judge.

Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said in all cases the defendants have told the court they were subjected to torture to make them confess to the crimes of which they were accused.

FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015.
FILE - A defendant is seen caged in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt, Aug. 22, 2015.

“There is significant cause for concern that due process and fair trial guarantees may not have been followed in some or all of these cases, and that the very serious allegations concerning the use of torture were not properly investigated,” Colville said.

In June 2017, the U.N. Committee against Torture completed a four-year confidential inquiry and concluded that torture is “practiced systematically” in Egypt. Colville told VOA the recent allegations of torture, in almost all of these cases, come against this well-established backdrop that torture is endemic in Egypt.

“If torture was used to make a confession a considerable part of the prosecution’s case, then that should not be admitted in court. That confession produced under torture should not be admissible. And when these allegations have been brought up by the defense lawyers and so on, our belief is they are not being taken seriously enough by the courts,” he said.

Colville said a number of individuals convicted under similar circumstances in Egypt have exhausted all legal proceedings. He says they currently are on death row at imminent risk of execution.

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