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Members of state-funded rights group call for 3-year moratorium on all executions

George Ishaq says he wants a cooling off period to ease tensions

Ahram Online , Wednesday 27 May 2015
George Ishaq
George Ishaq of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) (Photo: Al-Ahram)
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A longtime political activist and member of a semi-official rights body has backed calls to suspend death sentences in Egypt for three years as courts continue to hand down mass death sentences to Islamists accused of murder and terrorism.

George Ishaq of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) said Tuesday he is for shelving the death penalty to help ease tensions in the country.

His remarks came days after the NCHR's deputy head, Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr, formulated a similar proposition citing the same reasons.

Hundreds of Islamists have been sentenced to death over murder and terrorism charges in mass trials that have drawn local and global condemnation by western government and international rights watchdogs. 

"That's for the climate the country is going through. We need more calm and stability, we need to stem violence and terrorism," Ishaq, once a leading opposition figure under Morsi, said in TV comments.

Several rights organisation have called for the abolition of the practice of executions worldwide, replacing it instead with jail for life.

In its annual report issued in April, the London-based Amnesty International said Egypt and Nigeria make up well over a third of the world's total death sentences in 2014, with over 1,000 death sentences recorded in both states last year.

The report noted that Egypt carried out 15 confirmed executions during 2014.

This week's call has stirred criticism by some who claimed it means a "miscarriage of justice" and would spark more violence. An individual has filed a report demanding the dissolution of the council, and accusing it of "working for the benefit of terrorists," a judicial source said.

Ishaq said: “We are suggesting a deferment not cancellation [of the penalty]... [we are] calling for easing tensions."

"Some trials need deliberation...defendants might not be convicted in the end," Ishaq added, stressing that those indicted in murder should receive punishment. 

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