LEGAL TEAM CALLS ON PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON TO RAISE IBRAHIM HALAWA’S CASE WITH PRESIDENT SISI DURING HIS VISIT TO THE UK
Ibrahim Halawa’s legal team – barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Katie O’Byrne and Mark Wassouf of Doughty Street Chambers, London and solicitor Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, Belfast – have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to raise the case of Ibrahim Halawa, a 19 year old Irish citizen who has been detained without trial in Egypt for over two years, with President Abdelfattah Sisi of Egypt during his visit to the United Kingdom.
In a letter sent to the British Prime Minister this morning, the legal team set out a long list of violations of Ibrahim Halawa’s rights in the 27 months he has spent in custody in Egypt, which they say constitute multiple breaches by Egypt of its international legal obligations. Among other things, Ibrahim has endured arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane treatment, and, having been denied access to his lawyers, he is now awaiting a mass trial, involving 494 defendants which breaches the most basic judicial standards of fairness. His trial date has now been set for 15 December 2015. If he is convicted, the letter stressed, he is at risk of being sentenced to death.
In light of the seriousness of the case and the timing of President Sisi’s visit to the UK, the legal team’s letter called on the Prime Minister to raise concerns about Ibrahim Halawa’s case with President Sisi as a matter of urgency and to press the Egyptians for Ibrahim’s “immediate transfer to Ireland” under the terms of Egyptian Law 140 of 2014. The lawyers also asked David Cameron to raise “the broader issues of widespread human rights abuses in Egypt” with President Sisi.
Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, solicitor to Ibrahim Halawa, said:
“Ibrahim’s continued detention in Egypt is a matter of grave concern. The Prime Minister must use his meetings with President Sisi to pressure Egypt to send Ibrahim home to Ireland. The Prime Minister has in the past used the opportunity afforded by the visit of a head of state to call for the release of political prisoners who are citizens of other countries. For example, he has publicly criticised the detention of Mohamed Nasheed in the Maldives, and called for his release. Unlike Mr Nasheed, Ibrahim Halawa is an EU citizen. We hope the Prime Minister will seize this opportunity to call for his return to Europe.”
Caoilfhionn Gallagher of Doughty Street Chambers, counsel to Ibrahim Halawa, said:
“Ibrahim has been in detention without trial for over two years, during which he has been treated appallingly. Earlier this year he went on hunger strike in a desperate attempt to campaign for his freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. He now faces an impending mass trial, along with 493 others, which is overwhelmingly likely to be unfair, in conditions which make a mockery of justice. Egypt continues to act with flagrant disregard for its obligations under international law.”
Along with this morning’s letter, the legal team also sent Mr Cameron a copy of a detailed legal opinion setting out their analysis of Egypt’s numerous breaches of Ibrahim Halawa’s rights.
On 17 August 2013 Ibrahim (then aged 17) was arrested along with hundreds of others who had sought refuge in a Cairo mosque from violent clashes between the security forces and protestors. He has been charged with serious offences, all of which he strongly denies. These include at least three which carry the death penalty, and one which carries a life sentence. No evidence has been presented by the prosecution for any of these charges. Instead, the case file, which the legal team has reviewed in full, heavily relies on statements of a vague and general nature (none of which name Ibrahim specifically) from police witnesses regarding the actions of all 494 defendants.
Since his arrest, Ibrahim has endured horrific and sustained violations of his rights:
- Ibrahim has been detained for an unreasonably long period without any justification or proper review, as required under international law;
- he has not been tried within a reasonable time;
- he has been denied proper access to legal representation;
- he is likely to be tried in absentia, without proper examination of his case and in breach of the presumption of innocence;
- he was shot in the hand during his arrest and was denied medical treatment by the Egyptian authorities, leaving his hand permanently disfigured;
- he has been repeatedly abused by prison officers, including being whipped on his back with metal chains, repeatedly hit in the face and subjected to a humiliating strip search in front of armed guards;
- the conditions in which Ibrahim is held include poor sanitation, periods in solitary confinement, overcrowding and prisoners being served food containing worms and cockroaches; and
- Ibrahim is possibly facing the death penalty despite the clear and absolute bar upon this under international law for any offence committed by a child, no matter how serious.
END OF PRESS RELEASE
Notes for Editors:
1. Any queries should be directed to the family’s solicitor, Darragh Mackin, KRW Law, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Ibrahim Halawa has no access to a lawyer. His legal team on Irish and international law was appointed on his behalf, by his family. Egyptian lawyers act for him before the Egyptian courts, but they have also been unable to see him or to take instructions from him.
3. Ibrahim was arrested on 17 August 2013, when he and others were taking refuge in the al-Fateh Mosque in Cairo. His legal team have seen no evidence of him being involved in any violence. International observers, including from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who were present on 17 August have described unprovoked and unjustified violence towards those in the mosque by Egyptian security forces. Over 16 and 17 August it is understood that at least 97 people died in operations by the police and armed forces intended to clear protestors, although estimates from Human Rights Watch put the number at minimum 120, using official data from the Egyptian Forensic Medical Authority.
4. Between 5 July and 17 August 2013, over 1,150 protestors were killed by police and army forces. A detailed one-year investigation by Human Rights Watch has concluded that the conduct of the Egyptian security forces in responding to the demonstrations involved the systemic and intentional use of excessive and lethal force in their policing, resulting in the killing of unarmed, peaceful protestors on an unprecedented scale: All According to Plan: The Rab’a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protestors in Egypt (August 2014). In January 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, urged for an end to the excessive use of force by Egyptian security personnel, accountability for the Egyptian security forces, and he called for the release of all those detained for protesting peacefully: Statement available here.
5. Egyptian Law 140 of 2014 allows the President to transfer foreigners who are accused or convicted in Egypt to their country of origin to face appropriate legal processes there. Law 140 was used to deport Peter Greste, an AlJazeera journalist arrested in December 2013 and charged with dissemination of false news, to his home country of Australia earlier this year. At the time of his deportation Mr Greste remained subject to unfinished criminal proceedings in Egypt.