Reprieve | Mass Injustice | End Mass Trials and Death Sentences for Children in Egypt

Picture this: you’re just a teenager when officers break into your home and take you from your bed.

The officers take you to an undisclosed location and don’t tell your family where you are. To them, you have simply disappeared. You are tortured until you “confess” to a crime you didn’t commit.

You are put through a mass trial. No one tells you why, and you can’t individually contest the charges against you. In a dock crowded with hundreds of others, you strain against the bars to hear the verdict: “guilty”. The sentence? Death by hanging.

This isn’t just the story of one child. Since 2013, Egyptian courts have recommended initial death sentences for at least 10 children convicted in mass trials, often on trumped-up charges related to attending protests or the exercise of other fundamental rights. Sometimes, children are swept up by the authorities for no apperent reason.

Want to know what you can do about it? Keep scrolling to learn more about the situation, the key issues, the stories of the children affected, and how you can help.

What's happening in Egypt?

4

The number of times since 2011 that Egyptian courts have recommended death sentences to 100 or more defendants simultaneously.


16

The age at which children can be tried in mass trials alongside adult co-defendants.


80

The number of days 17-year-old Ahmed Saddouma was held in incommunicado detention before he was “officially” arrested and sent to face a death sentence in a mass trial.

Since the military coup which saw President el-Sisi come to power in 2013, Egypt’s use of the death penalty has soared. In the past five years, at least 83 people have been executed and more than 2,300 have received recommended death sentences.

In this chaotic situation, children are particularly vulnerable. Egypt continues to violate the rights of children, who are faced with a broken juvenile justice system entirely incapable of protecting them.

What do I need to know?

Children are being sentenced to death

According to our investigation, at least 10 children have received initial death sentences in Egypt since 2013. Egyptian authorities are exploiting a loophole in the Child Law that allows them to try children as young as 16 in mass trials alongside adults on death-eligible offences.

So far, no children have been executed – but the risk is only too real.

Mass trials are not fair trials

Mass trials often see scores of people stand in the dock at once, unable to present an individual defence. Mass trials cannot possibly meet international fair trial standards, and often lead to innocent people – including children – receiving death sentences.

Peaceful protesters are facing reprisals

Many of those currently facing death sentences in Egypt have taken part in peaceful protests or political opposition to the current regime. But sometimes there is no reason for an arrest. This is typical of how the death penalty is often used across the world to abuse those who stand up for human rights. According to international law, the death penalty should not be applied for non-lethal offences.

Who needs help?

Ahmed Sadouma

Ahmed was just 17 when he was abducted by police and tortured. He was eventually forced to confess to involvement in the attempted assassination of a judge. But here’s the thing: the assassination attempt took place 21 days after Ahmed’s arrest. He couldn’t have been involved, as he was already in police detention. Ahmed was recommended for a death sentence at trial, which he is appealing in December.

Hatem Zaghoul

Hatem was arrested and falsely accused of involvement in an attack on a police station. Originally sentenced to death in a mass trial of 545 people, his sentence was commuted to a prison term after Reprieve became involved in his case. We continue to campaign for his release.

How can I help?

Here’s the first thing you can do: sign our petition calling on Egypt to stop sentencing children to death in mass trials. We’ll be delivering that petition to the Egyptian embassy in London to show them that the world is watching.

We have three key demands:

  • release all children unlawfully sentenced to death
  • close the child death penalty loophole
  • end the use of mass trials.

Add your name now and call on the Egyptian government to reform its juvenile justice system and ensure that no more children face mass trials and death sentences.

Petition text +

Dear President el-Sisi, We, the undersigned, call upon you to stop violations of children’s rights in Egypt and enact the following:

  • Conduct a review of all death sentences handed down in Egypt since 2011 to identify:
    • all children who have been sentenced to death; and
    • all prisoners on death row whose trials did not meet international fair trial standards.
  • Release all children in detention currently facing death sentences in Egypt;
  • Commit to commuting all death sentences for individuals whose trials did not meet international fair trial standards following a review of death row;
  • Identify all child defendants tried as adults and commit to retrying them in juvenile courts;
  • Close the loophole that allows children aged 16 and over to be tried as adults and face the death penalty;
  • End the use of mass trials, which violate international fair trial standards and deprive children of their rights.
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