Egypt: UN experts condemn execution of Coptic Christian

GENEVA (27 May 2021) – UN human rights experts* condemned the execution this month of Wael Saad Tawdros Mikhil, a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority, after he was convicted of murder based on an alleged forced confession.

Tawdros was reportedly arbitrarily detained, tried, convicted and sentenced to death on 22 April 2019 for allegedly killing an abbot at a monastery. The conviction was upheld by the Court of Cassation on 1 July 2020. Known as Father Isiah at the time, he was subsequently defrocked by the church.

According to information received, he was executed on 9 May.

In a letter to the Egyptian authorities, UN experts expressed their grave concerns about the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of Father Isiah and his co-defendant. Father Isiah was reportedly detained incommunicado for 27 days, and subjected to ill-treatment and forced to re-enact the alleged crime.

“We are particularly concerned by the apparent violation of due process and the abandonment of the highest international safeguard standards required for the lawfulness of the death penalty,” the experts said. “We strongly condemn the Egyptian Government’s actions, especially after directly appealing to the Government, and regrettably, no response was provided prior to the execution.

“The execution was conducted in secrecy, which is a serious violation of the inherent dignity of the human person and, specifically, violates the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” they said.
The experts also expressed alarm with regards to the timing of the execution, taking place during the holy month of Ramadan, shortly after the celebration of Easter by the Coptic Church, and without duly providing notice to the prisoner or the family.

According to information received, over 50 executions have already taken place this year: 17 people were executed in April, 30 in March, six in February and one in January.

“The death penalty in retentionist states should be reserved for the most serious crimes, and should be imposed only with extreme exception. However, the prevalence with which the death penalty is being executed in Egypt does not demonstrate that it meets the most stringent requirements or moving towards its abolition.”

The experts called on the authorities to end their systematic use of the death penalty, including against religious minorities, and to put into effect a moratorium on pending executions with a view to ensuring that all death sentences are properly reviewed.


*Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief ; Mr. Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues
The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Egypt