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Sentenced to Death: Does Egypt have the right to punish peaceful protesters?

Sentenced to Death: Does Egypt have the right to punish peaceful protesters?

In recent events, the Egyptian court system has sentenced 75 prominent figures to death after their involvement in the Rabaa Massacre on the 14th August 2013. Many hundreds more have been sentenced between 5 years to life in prison, including Supreme Leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, one of the lead instigators of the massacre.

Little over 5 years ago, a group of peaceful protesters, supporters of Former President Mohammed Morsi, were broken through by armed men, members of the Muslim Brotherhood of which is a banned group within Egypt, simply for peacefully demonstrating their support for Morsi at an organised sit-in, therefore in protest of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s attempted overthrow of Mohammed Morsi, which successfully occurred days later in a military coup.

Meanwhile, the families of those sentenced claim the sentencing is ‘absurd and unfair’, when Badie was sentenced to life in prison but Osama Yassin, a youth minister, and pro-Morsi protester, the victim, is sentenced to death. The Human Rights Watch has categorised this event as a likely crime against humanity, with the most innocent condemned, as Shawkan, an employee of UK based photo agency Demotix, has been detained for 5 years. Amnesty International has publicly declared the trail to be a ‘grotesque parody of justice’ as well as other humanitarian officials stating, ‘the trial from the start lacked any standards of a fair trial’.

As a unified organisation, the United Nations has a norm to protect all citizens whom their state has denied citizenship or fails to protect them from crimes against humanity, as such, should the UN not overrule the Egyptian courts and produce a ‘fair’ trial, by which the accused are innocent until proven guilty, and death is not punished by death?

The circumstances around this case, bring into question Egypt’s frequent use of the “pre-trial detention” policy, where it is legal to imprison a person for 2 years whilst awaiting trial. However, since 2013, some of those involved in the massacre, both victim and instigator, has been held in prison for 5 years. Egypt’s corrupt policies and governing body have broken their own laws, all whilst Judge Hassan Farid el-Shami announces those on Death’s Row, supported by the allegation a ‘prolonged pre-trial detention… renders defendants in Egypt guilty until proven otherwise’ according to Baoumi, a human rights specialist.

Does Egypt have the right to punish the peaceful protesters? Should the international community intervene in Egypt, a subject them to the norms of the international system?

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