INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MUST TAKE URGENT ACTION ON SITUATION IN EGYPT
President of International Progress Organization reminds United Nations
Vienna, 8 July 2015,
In messages addressed to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the President of the Vienna-based International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), Professor Hans Köchler, appealed to the world organization to take decisive action in regard to the escalating situation in the Arab Republic of Egypt, which threatens the maintenance of international peace and security.
In his messages, the President of the I.P.O. explained that, following the unconstitutional removal from office of the freely elected President, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, by army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in the course of a coup d’état, Egyptian security forces, on August 14, 2013, have – in the words of Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch – “carried out one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.” In a climate of total impunity that has prevailed since the violent overthrow of the legitimate government, no one has been held accountable for these acts, which constitute crimes against humanity according to Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
In the two years since the tragic events, in the course of which large numbers of unarmed civilians have been killed, the authorities have further increased repressive measures against elected officials and political activists, and many more people died in extrajudicial killings or were imprisoned or sentenced following mass show trials that make a mockery of justice and the rule of law. In the words of the President of the German Parliament, Norbert Lammert, the authorities engaged in “systematic persecution of opposition groups through mass arrests, long-term prison sentences and an incomprehensibly large number of death sentences.”
Professor Köchler further stated that the death sentences against President Mohamed Morsi and hundreds of political activists, including party leaders and members of Parliament, are a judicial scandal of enormous proportions. In proceedings that often only lasted a few minutes, hundreds of people were convicted on vague and trumped-up charges – without proper investigation of their cases and without the defence having been given a chance to present exculpatory evidence. These convictions are legally invalid (1) because the courts operate on the basis of conditions established after an illegal change of government, and (2) the most basic standards under international law – in particular the right to fair trial according to Article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – have been violated.
Because this is an issue that goes beyond the domestic jurisdiction of Egypt and is of concern to all UN member states, the President of the I.P.O. urged the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene without delay with those in power in Egypt and urge them not to execute the death sentences, and to unconditionally release all political prisoners. He also called upon the Secretary-General to bring the matter to the attention of the United Nations Security Council. In view of the facts, including the mass death sentences, that constitute a serious threat to the peace under Article 39 of the Charter, the Council should consider establishing an International Commission of Inquiry and, in conformity with Article 13b of the Rome Statute, eventually refer the situation in the Arab Republic of Egypt to the International Criminal Court.
Action of the international community is of particular urgency because an “anti-terrorism” draft law is about to be promulgated by presidential decree that will, in the words of civil society groups, if enacted, impose an “indefinite, undeclared state of emergency and establish an exceptional, parallel judiciary,” including the removal of the possibility of proper appeals to death sentences.
Professor Köchler further stated that the very credibility of the United Nations Organization, its solemn commitment to peace, human rights and the international rule of law are at stake in a situation where systematic violations of human rights, extrajudicial killings and crimes against humanity are carried out in a climate of impunity and under conditions where the rule of law has been abolished following the military coup of July 3, 2013.