Egypt will keep death penalty

2009-12-10 21:19

Cairo - Egypt said on Thursday that it will not abolish the death penalty because it is a deterrent, even though human rights groups say that fair trials are not guaranteed.

"Egypt will not abolish the death penalty. It is a deterrent especially in murder crimes," state minister for legal and parliamentary affairs Mufid Shehab told a human rights session in parliament.

"This penalty is carried out with full guarantees of a fair trial in several phases and the accused is not executed until after an opinion from the mufti," the country's most senior Muslim legal scholar, Shehab said in comments carried by the official MENA news agency.

Egyptian legislation allows for the death sentence to be imposed for a large number of offences defined by the Penal Code, the Military Code of Justice, the Arms and Ammunition Law, and the Anti-Drug Trafficking Law, a report by 16 Egyptian human rights groups said last week.

"Criminal courts in Egypt, which issue all death sentences in cases unrelated to terrorism, offer no recourse to appeal before a higher judicial body," the report said.

"More serious are the death sentences for civilians issued by emergency courts or military tribunals, since these courts do not provide the minimum standards of a fair trial," it added.

There are no recent figures for the number of executions carried out in Egypt, but in their report, the rights groups said that since 1992, military tribunals and emergency courts had handed down at least 137 death sentences in terrorism cases, at least 67 of which have been carried out.

London-based watchdog Amnesty International says that between 1999 and 2003, 25 to 50 people were executed each year.