Help urged for Irish teen in Egypt as new data reveals scale of child arrests
October 16, 2014
Newly-analysed figures suggest the Egyptian authorities have arrested large numbers of children during a year-long crackdown on protests, adding to concerns about due process in the country amid upheaval in its controversial ‘mass trials.’
New figures collated and analysed by legal charity Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish teen caught up in the mass trials, show that arrests of children since last year’s violent breakup of protests have taken place on a scale not previously realised. The figures, which currently focus on Cairo alone, show that up to 166 juveniles – some as young as six –have been arrested since July 2013, in contravention of Egypt’s Child Law and international law.
It’s also emerged that several juveniles are among the hundreds facing trial alongside Mr Halawa, who was 17 when he was arrested in August 2013. He now faces a potential death sentence alongside nearly 500 other people in an ongoing mass trial. Mr Halawa has been tortured in detention, and singled out for particular abuse for his Irish nationality, while the Egyptian authorities have refused to accept proof of his young age provided by the Irish government.
The figures emerged as the progress of the widely-criticised mass trials takes a chaotic turn; the authorities continue to struggle to appoint a judge to oversee the mass trial involving Mr Halawa, after the previous incumbent walked out of the makeshift courtroom in protest in August. In one court last week, the authorities demoted a judge who had handed controversial simultaneous death sentences to hundreds of protestors, while days before, another court handed down harsh sentences to five children as part of a mass trial involving 70 defendants.
Reprieve has today written to the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, urging her to take action to free Mr Halawa and raise serious concerns about other juveniles caught up in the mass trials.
Maya Foa, strategic director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: “These new figures point out an alarming trend – the sweeping arrests of children, some as young as six, by the Egyptian authorities, in contravention of Egypt’s own laws and international law. As further cracks appear in the chaotic, unjust system of ‘mass trials’, the Egyptian government must change course and restore the rule of law – while the European Union and the Irish Government must urgently renew their calls for the release of Ibrahim Halawa and all other juveniles.”
Notes to editors
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2.The full text of Reprieve’s letter to Catherine Ashton is available here.