European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (Photo: Reuters)
Recent mass death sentences in Egypt breach international law and raise concerns about Cairo's commitment to upholding human rights, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has said.
A court on Monday passed death sentences against Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie and 682 alleged supporters of the group. The charges included storming a police station and killing a police officer.
The same court in Minya, Upper Egypt also confirmed death sentences against 37 defendants in a separate case. It overturned 492 of the 529 death sentences it had handed down in March. The remaining defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment, according to judicial sources.
"These mass trials are clearly in breach of international human rights law," Ashton said in a statement on Tuesday.
"The exact charges against each defendant remain unclear, the proceedings lack the most basic standards of due process and the verdicts appear grossly disproportionate, failing short of complying with the principle of individual sentencing," she said.
The European envoy urged Egyptian authorities to ensure a just judicial process in accordance with international rules, namely the right to a fair and timely trial based on clear charges, along with the right of access and contact to lawyers and family
Ashton said she was particularly worried about "the compliance of Egypt with its international human rights obligations, as well as the seriousness of Egypt's transition towards democracy."
The EU called on Egypt to immediately reverse the trend which "jeopardises any prospects for overcoming divisions within society and to ensure progress towards a truly democratic, stable and prosperous Egypt."
Monday's sentences sparked a flurry of condemnation from rights campaigners and the international community.
The United Nations called the verdict "outrageous" while Washington said it was "deeply troubled" by a decision that "defies even the most basic standards of international justice."