The death penalty is a controversial subject in many countries, including the Republic of the Seychelles. The Seychelles, like many nations don’t believe in having a death penalty, and life in prison is the ultimate punishment for a crime. Yesterday in a personal letter to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Seychelles founding President James R. Mancham calls on the Egyptian leader to show mercy towards three Seychelles citizens about to face the gallows.
President Sir James R. Mancham asked eTN to publish this letter:
18th October, 2014
HE President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi
President of the Republic of Egypt
This morning, the popular Seychelles newspaper ‘TODAY’ has carried on its first page an article entitled “Sentenced to death – Time is running out”, concerning the information the paper has received that three young Seychellois – Ronny Jean, Yvon Vinda and Dean Lozé will be executed on November 5th 2014 following the rejection of their appeal against the death sentence imposed on them by the Egyptian courts on the 7th of April 2013.
The three Seychellois were arrested on the 22nd of April 2011 in the Red Sea after Egyptian Police Officers found three tons of drugs inside their South African flagged boat.
Whilst the Seychelles Government has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy against drug trafficking and cannot interfere with the Egyptian system of justice, it has nonetheless involved the Egyptian authorities with a view to spare the three persons the penalty of capital punishment which does not exist in Seychelles legal system at this time.
Seychelles is a small nation with only 90,000 people, living more or less next to each other and whilst the Seychellois people feel that the three young men deserve maximum penalty of imprisonment – they should in the circumstances prevailing, be spared the gallows.
As the founding President of the Republic and as the recipient of Gusi Peace Prize Award for Statesmanship in 2011; as the recipient of the International Jurists Award in 2010 and as the elected member of the Committee of Elders of COMESA who represented the African Union at the last Egyptian Presidential Elections before Your Excellency was elected to office in his own right, I consider it my duty to support the Seychelles Government’s plea for clemency for these three Seychellois, with a view to commute their death sentence to one of imprisonment.
Your Excellency, I have personally, during my lifetime, held Egypt and the Egyptian people in high esteem and affection, ever conscious of the Nation’s important civilizing role in the history of our planet.
• As a young man growing up in Seychelles, one of my family’s preferred songs was “See the pyramids along the Nile: watch the sun rise over tropic isles.” Through this song, I became endeared to Egyptian history and geography – and e.g. learnt that Saad Zaghloul Pasha ibn Ibrahim was an intelligent Egyptian national hero, was exiled together with five other political personalities by the British in Seychelles in 1922 when he arrived onboard a British warship. In 1923, he was allowed to return to Egypt where he became Prime Minister in February 1924. Pasha died in Cairo on the 23rd of August 1927.
• As a young philatelist, I became the owner of a colourful collection of stamps depicting King Farouk.
• During the Second World War, the British created an army contingent styled “Seychelles Pioneer Corps” within which my uncle became an officer. Stationed in Benghazi, Libya, the Seychellois soldiers brought home great stories about their visit to Cairo which was the place they were sent for rest and recreations.
• In 1957, I passed through Suez Canal, visited Port Said and Port Alexandria on the last ship that was allowed to go through the Canal following the Anglo-France and Israel attacks on Egypt.
• In June 1976, as the founding President of the Republic of Seychelles, I participated at the Afro-Arab Summit in Cairo that was hosted by the late President Anwar Sadat.
• In 2004, I transited through the Port of Safaga in order to board The World ResidenSea as a lecturer on a cruise from Egypt to the Indian Ocean Islands.
• In 2011, I was a member of a COMESA Pre-Election Assessment Mission in Cairo and a few months later was designated by the then Secretary-General of the African Union to be the African Union witness at the Presidential Elections which brought to office your predecessor.
All these opportunities have enabled me to appreciate the complexity of the Egyptian society and its political problems, but also to appreciate the beauty of the country, the richness of its history and specially to appreciate the cultural dimension of its peace-loving people.
Of course, none of these situations provide me with any justifiable premise to interfere with the system of justice which prevails within the Egyptian nation today. However, I was extremely impressed and encouraged with the address Your Excellency delivered to the United Nations General Assembly recently when you ended your speech by chanting “Long Live Egypt.”
Considering what I read about your strong character and personality and the popularity of your leadership in Egypt at this time, it is my view that you are the only person who could intercede so that the three Seychellois prisoners would be spared the gallows.
Your Excellency, in the above context and spirit, I am reminded of what William Shakespeare said concerning ‘The Quality of Mercy’:-
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”
Mr President, I pray and continue to pray for a wise and merciful conclusion of this sad and unfortunate case. May Allah bless you forevermore.
With highest considerations
Sir James R. Mancham, KBE
Founding President of the Republic of Seychelles