The Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) has called for a reconsideration of what crimes are subject to the death penalty, following the sentencing of 14 militants involved in attacks on security forces in north Sinai last year.
The EOHR condemned the attackers and supported their facing trial, but it also called for a review of the crimes for which capital punishment is considered. The group advocate replacing the death penalty with long prison sentences, in preparation for the eventual abolishment of the death sentence in Egypt.
“According to criminal law, this is the punishment that is given to people who commit this crime, and we have condemned the terrorist attacks in our statement,” said Tarek Zaghloul, the executive director of the EOHR.
“The death penalty is a deterrent punishment and there’s no going back on it. If the innocence of any of the defendants is proven, you can’t return them to life. It is different from a punishment like hard labour, where if you prove that someone didn’t commit the crime you can go back on it,” Zaghloul added.
Regarding the possibility of abolishing the death sentence, Zaghloul said that EOHR has been meeting with families of people who have been executed, as well as clerics who have called for the end of the death penalty. He is not optimistic about the possibility of abolition in the near future because of what he described as “the trend to apply Sharia’a Law.”
Calls to abolish the death sentence meet difficulties because it is permitted within Islam.
The Dar Al-Ifta, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Justice, said in a recent study that all talk of abolishing the death sentence is nonsense because it would interfere with application of Shari’a, according to a report by state-run news agency MENA.
One of the advisors of the Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, who heads the Dar Al-Ifta, said that there should be a commitment to continue carrying out the punishment, provided that there are guarantees of guilt.
On Monday, the Ismailiya Criminial Court sentenced 14 to death, a further four received life in prison and six were acquitted. They were being tried for their involvement in an attack carried out against Egyptian security forces last year in north Sinai, which left several dead.
The attack, which took place in July 2011, was carried out by members of the Tawhid and Jihad Islamist group, and targeted a police department in addition to a commercial bank.
Jihadists in north Sinai villages have a history of tension with Egyptian security dating from Mubarak era.