FIDH condemns mass executions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt

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While the world’s attention is focused on Russia’s war on Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Egypt recently executed scores of people on trumped-up terrorism charges following unfair trials. The two states continue to use counter-terrorism laws as a pretext to crack down on fundamental rights and freedoms and justify exceptional measures that do not meet the international standards and norms of fair trials and due process.

Mass Executions in Saudi Arabia

On Saturday, 12 March 2022, Saudi Arabia announced through the official Saudi Press agency SPA that it had executed 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from murder to belonging to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda or the Houthi rebel forces, as well as charges relating to protests. This is the largest known mass execution carried out in the kingdom in decades.

Despite the recent promises of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to reform the judicial system and limit the use of the death penalty, Saudi Arabia had already executed 11 people in 2022 for various crimes; this latest mass execution brought this year’s total to 92. A wave of executions have also since taken place, bringing the total to 107.

Of the 81 people killed, 73 were Saudi citizens (41 from the Shiite minority), seven were Yemeni, and one was Syrian. SPA claimed that the accused were allowed access to a lawyer and were guaranteed their full rights under Saudi law during the judicial process. A human rights leader quoted by the New York Times said that the charges against the accused involved “not a drop of blood", contradicting the spurious charges of murder.

“The Saudi authorities have long used the country’s legal apparatus to hound and repress dissidents and activists, and in particular wielding the vaguely-worded Counter-Terrorism Law to target political activism or criticism by branding it terrorist activity.”

according to Saudi human rights organization and FIDH member ALQST

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet condemned the mass execution.

“Our monitoring indicates that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law.”

Bachelet said

Mass Executions in Egypt

On Tuesday, 8 March 2022, Egypt’s prison authority executed four Egyptians in the “Helwan Microbus Cell” case, and another three citizens on 10 March in the “Agnad Masr case.”

According to rights groups, the executed defendants had been subjected to torture and enforced disappearance from the date of their arrest until they were officially brought before the public prosecution. The prosecution interrogated the accused without the presence of a lawyer, in violation of Article 54 of the Egyptian Constitution. Although the defence lawyers proved the occurrence of the violations during trial, both criminal and cassation courts chose to disregard the evidence according to rights groups.

Despite Egypt’s pledges to reconsider death penalty cases alongside the nature of crimes leading to capital punishment, authorities have continued to impose the death penalty for common law crimes and political crimes. According to rights groups, these executions bring the number of political executions carried out since President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi came to power in 2013 to 105 people. Egypt is now among the world’s top executioners – a deadly disgrace.

FIDH statement about Mass Executions in Saudi Arabia and Egypt

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expresses its utmost concern about the death penalty in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, in principle and without exception, and condemns in particular the use of the capital punishment to silence dissidents and eradicate political opponents.

 We call on the Egyptian and Saudi authorities to immediately end the use of mass trials, which violate the fair trial and due process guarantees enshrined in Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
 We call on Saudi Arabia and Egypt to sign and ratify the second optional protocol of the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty.
 We urge Egypt and Saudi Arabia to reform their counter-terrorism laws, bringing them into line with international standards, and to drop the vaguely-worded definitions of terrorism.
 We call on the international community and member states of HRC to condemn the human rights violations in Egypt and Saudi Arabia and to not engage in whitewashing these authoritarian regimes.

FIDH is staunchly opposed to the death penalty – regardless of the crime or circumstances – and, together with its member organisations, is working towards its universal abolition. FIDH is a founding member of the World Coalition against the Death Penalty and a member of its steering committee.

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