Number of Individuals On Death Row
There are likely over 2,000 people on death row in Egypt.
There has been a significant increase in the number of death sentences imposed, from at least 402 in 2017 to at least 717 in 2018. Amnesty International also indicates that at least 2,188 death sentences were issued between 2007 and 2016.
In 2016, at least 237 new death sentences were imposed and at least 44 executions were carried out, including the execution of eight women. That same year, at least three commutations were granted. In 2017, at least 402 new death sentences and 35 executions were recorded. Additionally, 162 commutations were granted and two people were exonerated. By the end of 2018, there were at least 717 new death sentences, the most ever recorded in the country, and at least 43 executions. There were 289 commutations and one exoneration.
(This question was last updated on May 30, 2019.).
Annual Number of Reported Executions in Last Decade
Executions in 2015
Executions in 2008
Does the country’s constitution mention capital punishment?
Egypt’s Constitution references neither capital punishment nor the right to life. Egypt’s Constitution provides that the principles of Shari’a law are the “principal source of legislation,” so principles that permit or limit application of the death penalty under Shari’a law may be influential in determining whether a particular application of the death penalty in Egypt violates fundamental rights.
Offenses Punishable by Death
Premeditated murder, especially by poisoning or other drugs/substances, is punishable by death. Other non-premeditated murder is punishable by death if associated with another crime, gang intimidation or robbery, or a terrorist purpose. The intentional killing of a public official or employee charged with the enforcement of narcotic laws is punishable by death.
While we did not find clear statutory support for the application of the death penalty for simple murder, in-country sources and foreign experts on the subject indicate that the death penalty might apply for simple murder. The APRO’s later submission to the Human Rights Council for its 2010 Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Egypt indicated similar statistics.
Other Offenses Resulting in Death.
Arson that results in the death of persons present in the building at the outbreak of the fire is punishable by death, and gang robbery or intimidation resulting in death may be death-eligible. Thuggery, hooliganism or terrorizing by intimidation are punishable by death if “preceded [by], accompanied [by], associated with or followed by” aggravated or deliberate murder as outlined in Article 234 of the Penal Code. According to Article 40 of Law No. 122, an assault on any law-enforcing officer or public officer that results in the death of that said person, is punishable by death. Similarly, assaulting officers charged with the enforcement of narcotic laws is punishable by death if the act results in death.
Terrorism-Related Offenses Resulting in Death.
The use of violence to cause harm, terror, ecological disaster, or other social disruptions is terrorism. Murder for terrorism is punishable by death. Causing death by terrorism in an attempt to force people to join or maintain membership in anti-state or terrorist organizations is punishable by death. Causing death in conjunction with a hijacking of any form of transportation or destruction of a government facility, utility or place for public use is punishable by death. Causing death by bombing is punishable by death. Causing the death of enforcement personnel in conjunction with a terrorist act is punishable by death. The use of violence to cause harm, terror, ecological disaster, or other social disruptions is terrorism. Murder for terrorism is punishable by death. Causing death by terrorism in an attempt to force people to join or maintain membership in anti-state or terrorist organizations is punishable by death. Causing death in conjunction with a hijacking of any form of transportation or destruction of a government facility, utility or place for public use is punishable by death. Causing death by bombing is punishable by death. Causing the death of enforcement personnel in conjunction with a terrorist act is punishable by death.
Terrorism-Related Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
A wide and vaguely-defined range of terrorism-related offenses not necessarily resulting in death are punishable by death; such offenses include: founding an organization that opposes the state through use of violence aimed at causing harm, terror, ecological disaster or other social disruption; cooperation with a foreign country or organization in carrying out or attempting a terrorist act; gang attacks on the people, armed resistance to authorities or seizure of government or public facilities, or leadership of a gang that would perform such activities; usurping military authority or leading armed gangs for criminal purposes (such as plundering); or other violent actions. Under Article 83(A) of the Penal Code, a wide range of violent, non-violent and inchoate actions —which plausibly include propagating “extremist thought” or sectarian divisions—aimed at undermining Egypt’s independence, unity or territorial integrity or aimed at assisting an enemy in time of war can be construed as terrorism punishable by death.
Under Article 26 of the Arms and Ammunition Law No. 394 of 1954, as amended by Law No. 165 of 1981, possessing or acquiring arms, ammunition or explosives for the inchoate purpose of disrupting the government, public security or peace, national unity, constitutional principles or the law is punishable by death.
Drug Trafficking Not Resulting in Death.
A variety of treasonous offenses are punishable by death, such as: intentionally undermining Egypt’s independence, unity or territorial integrity; fighting against Egypt or assisting Egypt’s enemies or inciting the same; demoralizing the troops or people; undermining the defense of Egypt, particularly in time of war; breaching defense contracts at time of war; interference with the constitutional order; armed attempts to overthrow the government; or other offenses. Treason is ultimately a vaguely-defined offense in Egypt: for example, under Article 83(A), cumulative with Article 98(C), capital punishment could be inflicted on a person who founds an unauthorized organization if a court determines there was an intent to affect Egypt’s unity; cumulatively with Article 98(F), Article 83(A) could apply the death penalty for propagating “by talk or in writing, or any other method, extremist thoughts.”
Other Offenses Not Resulting in Death.
Reports indicate that under Articles 130-154 of the martial Law No. 25 of 1966, a number of military offenses not resulting in death may be punishable by death, such as desertion, insubordination, looting, dereliction of duty, ill-treatment of the wounded, assisting the enemy and abuse of power.
Does the country have a mandatory death penalty?
No. Under the Penal Code, “if the conditions of the crime…necessitate the judge’s lenity, the penalty may be changed…” from capital punishment to life imprisonment or aggravated imprisonment (incarceration in a prison facility). Articles that exclude the application of Article 17 either do not reference capital crimes or else specifically permit the application of Article 17 in the case of capital punishment. Some reports state that Egypt's death penalty is mandatory for some drug trafficking offenses, but our reading of our copy of the law is that it explicitly permits discretion under Article 17 of the Penal Code, while limiting its range. Additionally, reports indicate that according to Article 381 of the Criminal Procedure Code, sentencing must be unanimous in the case of the death penalty, and under Article 448 an individual can apply for re-sentencing. An Arab Penal Reform Organization report by a human rights expert and attorney in Egypt discussed appeals and death sentences, arguing that the Court of Cassation uses appellate review to restrict application of the death penalty to serious ordinary crimes. The death penalty is on some occasions applied by unreviewable courts of arbitrary jurisdiction controlled by the executive, The death penalty is on some occasions applied by unreviewable courts of arbitrary jurisdiction controlled by the executive, but arbitrary application of the death penalty would not be legally mandated in such a situation.
Which offenses carry a mandatory death sentence, if any?
Although our analysis can be contested, we do not believe there is a mandatory death penalty in Egypt.
Categories of Offenders Excluded From the Death Penalty
Individuals Below Age 18 at Time of Crime.
While we have not found any Egptian law on this subject, Egypt is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its 2001 Concluding Observations observed that those under 18 are considered “children,” expressed concern that those aged 18 to 20 may not receive the same protections as those afforded to those under 18, and did not express any concern that individuals in Egypt may be executed for crimes committed while under the age of 18.
Offenses For Which Individuals Have Been Executed In the Last Decade
On March 11, 2010 a man and woman were executed for killing the woman’s husband (which the court must have concluded was planned and/or in association with an affair) despite evidence that the woman had acted alone and in self-defense against her husband, who had beaten her repeatedly.
While Amnesty International reports that at least 9 people have been executed in Egypt since January 2008, we have not been able to ascertain the crimes for which seven of the nine were convicted. A 2008 Arab Penal Reform Organization report indicates that death sentences are most frequently confirmed for aggravated murder, simple murder and felony murder, with a few confirmed for aggravated rape, drug offenses and crimes tried in exceptional courts for crimes related to state security or terrorism. The APRO’s later submission to the Human Rights Council for its 2010 Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Egypt indicated similar statistics.
Have there been any significant published cases concerning the death penalty in national courts?
The website of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which may be intended to eventually post the decisions of that and other courts, is under development at: http://hccourt.gov.eg/. The Arab Penal Reform Organization, a Cairo-based law firm, may be a useful organization to contact for those interested in access to Egyptian jurisprudence: http://www.aproarab.org/.
Does the country’s constitution make reference to international law?
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, Recognizing Jurisdiction of the Human Rights Committee
Date of Signature
Date of Accession
American Convention on Human Rights (ACHR)
Death Penalty Protocol to the ACHR
DPP to ACHR Party?
DPP to ACHR Signed?
African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR)
Protocol to the ACHPR on the Rights of Women in Africa
Date of Signature
Date of Accession
Arab Charter on Human Rights
Comments and Decisions of the U.N. Human Rights System
In its 2002 concluding observations regarding Egypt’s compliance with the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee expressed concern over Egypt’s declaration that the principles of Shari’a law are consistent with the ICCPR, requesting that Egypt define or withdraw its declaration. The Committee observed that Egypt retains (or had expanded) the death penalty for a wide range of offenses, including vaguely-defined “terrorism” offenses, many of which violate Article 6 of the Covenant because they do not constitute the most serious offenses. The Committee expressed concern that Egypt had maintained a legal state of emergency since 1981 without explaining why a state of emergency that justified derogation was still ongoing. (Egypt was still under an official state of emergency near the end of 2009.).
Comments and Decisions of Regional Human Rights Systems
The Human Rights Council, pursuant to its 2010 Universal Periodic Review of human rights in Egypt, recommended that Egypt restrict application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes; Egypt supported this recommendation. Egypt did not support the Council’s recommendation that it pursue a moratorium on executions, commute all death sentences and abolish the death penalty.
The Council’s Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism reported, pursuant to his 2009 Mission to Egypt, that Egypt’s counter-terrorism laws are in serious violation of international standards regarding the death penalty. Death-eligible crimes are too vaguely defined to be limited to serious acts of violence or terror, and the death penalty may be applied for inchoate crimes such as leadership of an organization that the government defines as aiming to commit such vaguely defined crimes. The Rapporteur’s description of “terrorist” offenses in Egypt amounted, arguably, to a description that would include civil disobedience. The Rapporteur stressed the importance of limiting application of the death penalty to the most serious crimes and expressed concern that death sentences pronounced by the Emergency Supreme State Security Courts (which adjudicate on terrorism offenses) are not subject to appeal. Decisions of military courts adjudicating on terrorism offenses are subject only to cassation. In both cases, the restriction of the right to appeal undermines the right to a fair trial.
Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants at Trial
Defendants have a right to an attorney at the state’s expense. Reports indicate that some individuals held in high-security facilities were denied this right: some were denied access to an attorney, while others were not afforded an attorney until trial (seriously compromising the attorney’s ability to prepare and offer a competent defense).
Availability of Lawyers for Indigent Defendants on Appeal
Upon completion of our research we did not determine whether Egypt provides counsel at state expense upon appeal.
Quality of Legal Representation
Death sentences must be unanimous. Cases may be appealed to the Courts of Appeal, and from there, to the Court of Cassation. A more unusual approach is to apply for reconsideration of the sentence to the Court of Cassation. The Supreme Constitutional Court might be able to hear a petition on a constitutional issue, disputes over jurisdiction, conflicting judgments, or divergence from the accepted implementation of laws. Sources indicate that prior to the judicial confirmation of a death sentence, the Mufti (a government-appointed head cleric) may express a non-binding opinion on whether a death sentence is appropriate.
A 2009 Special Rapporteur report to the Human Rights Council indicates that individuals who are sentenced to death by the Emergency Supreme State Security Courts for terrorism offenses have no recourse to appeal, although those sentenced by military courts may appeal to the Supreme Court for Military Appeals sitting as a court of cassation.
Sources indicate that the Mufti* expresses an opinion on whether a death sentence is appropriate; this may influence judicial or executive decision-making. Under Articles 470, 471 and 473 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the Minister of Justice must inform the President of any final sentence of death. The President confirms the sentence or pardons the offender, commutes or reduces the sentence. The President may also permit the sentence to become confirmed by expressing no position within 14 days of receiving the final sentence for consideration. Under Articles 74-76 of the Penal Code, it is possible that for offenses tried in ordinary courts the President may commute a death sentence to life imprisonment, but not to a term of years. The US Department of State indicates that a similar procedure applies for sentences issued by exceptional courts.
*The Mufti is Egypt’s leading cleric, who has the responsibility to issue religious edicts uninfluenced by the secular government. Courts may deviate from his opinions and he may come under criticism by other scholars of Islam. He has access to the prisons and has been involved with some success in the reformation of violent terrorists, success he portrays as important but limited. To the Mufti, literalism in religion is a root of immoderation and terrorism. The Mufti is widely recognized as a champion of moderate Islam. Recently, a serious upsurge in death sentences has required the Mufti to divert more of his attention to their review; we are not aware of the Mufti’s general approach in the current situation.
Availability of jury trials
Systemic Challenges in the Criminal Justice System
The judiciary lacks independence from the executive. As noted by the International Commission of Jurists, courts of arbitrary jurisdiction represent a serious threat to the fairness of criminal trials in Egypt. Under Articles 171 and 173 of the Constitution, and corresponding Law No. 105 of 1980 and Law No. 25 of 1966, the President controls the Military and State Security Courts, and under Article 179, during a state of emergency the President can assign the trial of a criminal offense at law to an exceptional court, and appeal from some exceptional courts is not permitted. Because Egypt has been under a state of emergency since 1981 (despite offering no credible explanation of the state of emergency or why the situation faced by Egypt requires the derogation of a defendant’s rights under the ICCPR to non-arbitrariness and a fair trial), there is a threat that those accused of capital crimes can be arbitrarily subjected to the jurisdiction of these sometimes unreviewable courts. Egypt’s government claims that, in practice, exceptional courts are used only in cases involving terrorism, national security or major drug trafficking cases. A report by the US Department of State indicates that security forces use arbitrary detention as a political tool; the executive exerts pressure on the judiciary and in security and political cases sometimes ignores its rulings; and the executive can replace the majority of the exceptional court’s judges with military judges. This undermines the right to a fair trial, particularly for political dissidents who may be treated as terror or security threats. As noted by the International Committee of Jurists, the existence of courts of arbitrary jurisdiction to which the executive can freely divert cases undermines the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial.
Where Are Death-Sentenced Prisoners incarcerated?
Reports indicate that Egypt is secretive about when death sentences are confirmed, and we do not know where death-sentenced prisoners are held prior to confirmation of their sentences. When a death sentence is confirmed and execution is impending, a death-sentenced male is transferred to Itsi’naf (and a female may be transferred to a prison in Giza), where executions take place. Egypt maintains high-security prisons, which include at least Tora, Istikbal, and Ala’qrab prisons. Two other high-security prisons, Fayoum and Leman Abu’zaabal, are often closed to the public. We do not know whether death-sentenced prisoners are held predominantly or exclusively at such locations.
Description of Prison Conditions
The U.S. Department of State reports that Egyptian prison conditions in general are poor, with overcrowding, lack of ventilation, inadequate nutrition and clean water, and limited access to medical care leading to serious health problems such as widespread tuberculosis. Guards brutalized prisoners, particularly juveniles held in adult facilities.
Foreign Nationals Known to Be on Death Row
What are the nationalities of the known foreign nationals on death row?
While we do not know the nationality of the current foreigners held under sentence of death, in the past Sudanese, Somali, Tanzanian, Bangladeshi and Indian individuals have been executed in Egypt. Foreigners are primarily held under sentence of death for drug trafficking offenses in Egypt, so foreign nationals affected by the drug trade may be more likely to be held under sentence of death in Egypt.
Women Known to Be on Death Row
Juvenile Offenders Known to Be on Death Row
By conclusion of our research we did not find any reports indicating that individuals are currently being held under sentence of death for crimes committed while under the age of 18, and the 2001 Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child discusses criminal penalties against children but does not identify the execution of juveniles as an issue.
Racial / Ethnic Composition of Death Row
We did not find reports of discriminatory sentencing based on race or ethnicity.
Recent Developments in the Application of the Death Penalty
During the past few years, executions in Egypt have been few, although not rare. These numbers do not reflect the threat to human rights posed by the potentially disproportionate use of death sentences in Egypt.
The Human Rights Committee’s 2002 Concluding Observations, the report to the Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism and the 2010 Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review indicate that Egypt has resisted legal restriction of the death penalty to the most serious crimes and, while claiming to support such restriction, somewhat broadened the application of the death penalty for vaguely-defined terrorist offenses not resulting in death. The Special Rapporteur noted that Egypt has improved the appeals process afforded to those tried for terror crimes by its military courts, but also that the Emergency State Security Courts (where any crime can be tried) remained courts of first and only instance. As noted in submissions to the Human Rights Council for its 2009 UPR, under Article 179 of Egypt’s Constitution the President can thus simply assign those accused of terrorism (or any crime) to the emergency courts, rendering improvements in the guarantee of a fair trial a nullity. While Egypt has been in a state of “emergency” since 1981 and a State Security Court has adjudicated for even longer, While Egypt has been in a state of “emergency” since 1981 and a State Security Court has adjudicated for even longer, both the vague language in Egypt’s recently promulgated terrorism laws and the President’s new ability to assign capital trials to an unreviewable court heightens the threat to protections against arbitrariness, unfair trials and inhuman treatment or punishment.
Death sentences pronounced by courts increased from 40 in 2007, to 87 in 2008 and to 269 in 2009. Statistics on death sentences between 1990-2000 indicate that only 530 death sentences were pronounced during that decade, suggesting that 2009 marked an upsurge in death sentences. The Arab Penal Reform Organization submitted statistics for the 2009 UPR that suggest this was due to an increase in the number of death sentences pronounced by courts of ordinary jurisdiction rather than to an increase in transparency or sentences pronounced by courts of arbitrary jurisdiction.
In-country commentators have remarked that “[incidents] of violent crime have increased markedly in recent months and years,” attributed in part to an economic crisis and a corresponding “widespread sense of hopelessness and despair.” Some have rejected courts’ “heavy-handed” attempts at deterrence as “its own kind of mass murder.” Noting government failures to provide “justice and security for all,” not merely for political and economic elites, one commentator opines: “By issuing harsh verdicts such as the death penalty, judicial authorities have begun to practice their own kind of violence against society.”
Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2018 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2016 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2014 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2012 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2010 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
2008 Record of Votes on the UN General Assembly Moratorium Resolution
Member(s) of World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
Other Groups and Individuals Engaged in Death Penalty Advocacy
No Military Trials for Civilians
PO Box 72054
London EC3P 3BZ
Tel 020 7553 8140
Fax 020 7553 8189
Where are judicial decisions reported?
The website of the Supreme Constitutional Court, which may be intended to eventually post the decisions of that and other courts, is under development at: http://hccourt.gov.eg/.
Where is legislation published?
Helpful Reports and Publications
Dr. Mohamed Al Ghamry, The Death Penalty In Egypt: Theoretical and Practical Study in the Light of Islamic Shariah and International Human Rights Law, Arab Penal Reform Organization, http://www.aproarab.org/modules.php?name=Reports_Publications, 2008.
Intl. Federation for Human Rights, The Death Penalty in Egypt, N° 415/2, http://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/eg415a.pdf, Apr. 2005.
Additional notes regarding this country
As of early 2011, the Egyptian people were in the process of replacing the long-standing regime. Constitutional amendments were proposed that would terminate the ability of the executive to institute a state of emergency, and terminate the ability of the government to remain in a state of emergency for lengthy periods without holding a popular referendum. As constitutional and legal reforms occur in Egypt, our answers should be updated to reflect whether the government can still interfere with the appellate process and subject individuals to trial in courts of extraordinary jurisdiction.