Egypt dismisses UN’s concerns for Irish student facing death penalty

April 28, 2016

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

The Egyptian authorities have dismissed concerns from UN human rights experts over an Irish juvenile who faces the death penalty in a mass trial.

In a recent letter to the UN’s Human Rights Council, Egyptian diplomats responded to a series of concerns raised by the UN body in an urgent appeal on the case of Ibrahim Halawa. Ibrahim – a student from Dublin – was 17 when he was arrested in 2013 in the wake of protests in Cairo. He is being tried alongside 493 other people in mass proceedings, which have been repeatedly postponed in the last three years. Ibrahim is believed to be held in poor prison conditions, and has reported being tortured and threatened with execution throughout his detention. During visits to him, Irish consular officials have noted “serious marks and bruising” on his body.

In the urgent appeal, sent to the Egyptian government last year, the UN experts had called on Egypt to respond to evidence of Mr Halawa’s mistreatment, and to reply to concerns about the fairness of his arrest and mass trial. In a response, revealed today by the BBC, the Egyptian authorities said any allegations that Ibrahim’s health was suffering were “false”, and claimed that he had “no recent injuries.”

The Egyptian submission contained no reply to the observations of Irish consular officers who witnessed marks of torture on Ibrahim’s body; it also failed to respond to accusations that Ibrahim has been denied access to a lawyer, and threatened with further execution.

The document has emerged after the Egyptian government was recently accused of misleading Irish consular officials on Ibrahim’s case. Earlier this month, it emerged that Ibrahim had been moved from one prison to another without the knowledge of Irish officials, or the Halawa family.

In a report last year on the death penalty in Egypt, human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting Ibrahim – found that over 70% of recent death sentences in Egypt were handed down in relation to political protests. The report also detailed the frequency of torture and incommunicado detention in Egyptian prisons.

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“The UN and the Irish government should be in no doubt that the Egyptian authorities are telling outright lies about Ibrahim’s case. The reality is that he should never have been imprisoned in the first place – he was arrested as a child and did nothing wrong, and yet he has been through torture, hellish prison conditions, and an appalling mass trial that could see him sentenced to death. The Egyptian authorities must stop peddling falsehoods about Ibrahim’s case, and instead release him without delay.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [at] reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 207 553 8140. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine [dot] oshea [at] reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

2. The UN document and the Egyptian response are available on request. Details of the recent prison move are available here.