Egypt misleads UN over human rights record as Irish teen faces mass trial and death sentence

November 6, 2014

An Egyptian ambassador has told the UN that “Egypt fully respects the restrictions on the use of death penalty and provides all due process guarantees”, as an Irish teen arrested while on holiday visiting family is facing a death sentence in a mass trial.

The comment came from Ambassador Mahy Abdel Latif at a UN Periodic Review called to assess Egypt’s human rights. The Ambassador also said that: “Egypt strives to provide the utmost guarantees against violations of human rights and to commit to the standards of the UN in a draft amendment to the penal code to balance respect for human rights.”

At the same time, however, Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish teenager, is due to face a mass trial alongside 500 other defendants and is at risk of being sentenced to death. Ibrahim was only seventeen when he was arrested in the turmoil surrounding protests against the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi last August.

During his detention Ibrahim has been beaten by police, given no medical treatment for bullet wounds to his hands, and has been denied access to legal assistance. A new hearing in the case is now set to take place on 1st December following chaotic proceedings in August which saw judges recusing themselves from the case.

At the session 59 countries commented on Egypt: 16 on the death penalty, 11 on unfair trials, and 9 on torture. The Ambassador from Germany said in their recommendation that Egypt should, “Establish a moratorium on death penalty with a view to abolishing it. Pending its abolishment, its use should be restricted”, while Ireland’s representative said they are “‘greatly concerned’ by judicial and detention practices in Egypt [and that the country should] Ensure compliance with international obligation of fair trials.”

For the first time in its history, Egyptian human rights NGOs opted not to participate in the UPR of Egypt due to ongoing crackdowns.

Maya Foa, Strategic Director at Reprieve, said: “Ibrahim Halawa, who was just 17 when he was arrested, has been tortured, detained for months without a lawyer, and is now facing a trial alongside 500 other people where it is possible he will be sentenced to death. The suggestion that Egypt is observing due process in this case is absurd – there is no way due process can be followed when 500 people are being tried at once. Egypt must immediately put an end to these proceedings and Ibrahim’s continuing illegal detention.”

ENDS