HRW urges Egypt to commute death penalties for Brotherhood members
The ruling this week effectively ended a case linked to a 2013 mass killing by security forces at an Islamist sit-in following the overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
"Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should immediately commute the death sentences for 12 protesters, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders," HRW said in a statement.
"The Rabaa trial was a mockery of justice, so it is outrageous that the highest court has upheld these 12 death sentences," said Joe Stork, HRW deputy Middle East and North Africa director.
Following Morsi's ouster in July 2013 amid mass protests against his rule, his Muslim Brotherhood supporters staged a massive sit-in at Rabaa al-Adawiya Square in eastern Cairo to demand his return.
The following month, security forces raided the square and killed some 800 people in a single day.
Authorities said at the time that protesters were armed and the forced dispersal was a vital counter-terrorism measure.
It marked the start of a long crackdown against both Islamists and the secular opposition in Egypt.
Those condemned to death on Monday were convicted of charges including arming criminal gangs and possessing firearms and bomb-making material, the court of cassation said in its ruling.
They include senior Brotherhood figures Mohamed al-Beltagy and Safwat Hegazy, a judicial source told AFP, adding that the rulings were final and could not be appealed.
The court also reduced sentences for 31 other members of the outlawed Brotherhood, according to the source.
But HRW said that the Egyptian president could pardon the defendants or commute the death sentences within 14 days of the ruling, in line with the country's criminal procedure code.
"President Sisi should seize this moment to void their execution and put an end to Egypt's profligate use of the death penalty," Stork said.
The New York-based rights watchdog said the trial, which had started with more than 600 defendants, had been "grossly unfair" and "marred with abuses".
"Like other mass trials, this one failed to establish individual criminal responsibility and was heavily based on unsubstantiated allegations by National Security Agency officers," HRW said.
Urging Egypt to halt any further executions, Stork said that "to move forward, Egypt needs to address the crimes committed by security forces, including Rabaa and the mass killings of protesters".