A Cairo Court has sentenced three men to death for their involvement in attacks on policemen in Egypt. According to U.S. News and World Report, the three men were convicted of killing at least ten policemen and attempting to kill more in a series of attacks between August 2013 and May 2014. All three men are also accused of the establishing a militant group known as Ansar al-Sharia. Besides the three men sentenced to death, four more men were given life sentences (twenty-five years), and seven more men were each sentenced to fifteen years.
In an interview with CNBC, Egyptian President al-Sisi claimed that “[Egypt is] at war against terrorism in the full meaning of the word. Egypt is in this war alone, without duplicity, we are serious and honest in confronting terrorism.” The serious commitment to combating terrorism has manifested itself in harsh punishments for terrorism activities. These harsh punishments, however, have led to condemnation from other countries. Members of the European Parliament say that “Egypt is restricting fundamental democratic rights.” These members continued to report that “The European Parliament calls for the end to all acts of violence, incitement and hate speech, reminding the Egyptian government that the universal protection of human rights and long-term prosperity go hand in hand.” UN Human Rights experts claimed, “Egyptian officials are using evidence obtained through torture or ill treatment, often during periods of enforced disappearance, to sentence prisoners to death in military courts.”
When terrorism becomes an issue for a country, it is often tempting for that country to use repression to stop it. However, using military power and harsh punishments against terrorists is yet to be proven effective. According to Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality, terrorists engage in a rational choice when they choose to engage in terrorism. This rational choice means they have often decided that they would die for their cause and mission. When this assumption is considered, the use of force or death penalties against terrorism is seen as ineffective. Terrorists are people who have already chosen to die for what they believe in, so threatening them with death is not going to be an efficient way to stop them. While doing little to solve the problem, these death sentences and ill-treatment of terrorist suspects are against the interests of human rights. Instead of repression, Egypt (and other countries) should investigate the socio-economic or cultural causes of terrorism. This approach would allow them to stop the violence before it has a chance to ever begin.
These three death sentences are just the most recent incident in a recent trend of harsh punishments in Egypt. According to U.S. News and World Report, 75 other people were sentenced to death over a sit-in which resulted in a clash between protesters and security forces. Al Jazeera reports that the Egyptian Military claims around 300 suspected jihadists and at least 35 soldiers have been killed since an operation began in February against jihadists. BBC confirms that President al-Sisi has vowed to continue his hardline tactics against terrorists since overthrowing the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
Unfortunately, all these events indicate an increased state of violence in Egypt. Al-Sisi’s presidency began with a violent overthrow, and his violent tactics have carried over into his handling of terrorism events. The sentencing of these three terrorists to death is just one event in a long string of harsh punishments and violence against terrorists and Islamic extremist groups. While the use of harsh punishments and military force is one solution many countries turn towards to combat terrorism, it is just another violent step in a violent cycle. In order to change the minds of extremists and prevent individuals from becoming terrorists, countries need to explore how to prevent individuals from becoming radicalized in the first place. These solutions are not found in violence, but rather in cultural, economic, religious, and sociological changes.