Egypt uses law ‘repealed 89 years ago’ to try hundreds, including Irish juvenile

February 1, 2017

Image of Ibrahim Halawa

It has emerged that the Egyptian authorities are using a law that was repealed 89 years ago to try an Irish juvenile, and 493 others, on charges that potentially carry the death penalty.

Egypt’s 1914 Assembly Law has been cited by the authorities as a key part of the legal basis for the ongoing trial of 494 people, who face the death penalty on charges relating to protests. They include Ibrahim Halawa, from Dublin, who was a juvenile at the time of his arrest. The same law was also used when a judge recommended that over 500 people should be sentence to death in Minya Governorate in 2013.

However, according to a new study, the law was repealed 89 years ago. A report issued yesterday by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights says that the 1914 statute was “incontrovertibly repealed” in 1928. An administrative loophole has enabled it to be relied on by the authorities ever since.

The discovery undermines the basis of the mass trial of Ibrahim and 493 others, which has been ongoing since 2013. The prosecution has relied on the provisions of the law to argue that the 494 should be sentenced to death on nearly identical charges.

Egypt’s system of mass trials has seen thousands of death sentences handed down since President Sisi took power, and provoked condemnation from the UN, and countries including the US and the UK.

Ibrahim and his co-defendants have reported being regularly tortured in pre-trial detention.

The next hearing in the mass trial is due to take place on February 14th.

Harriet McCulloch, a deputy director at human rights organization Reprieve – which is assisting Ibrahim – said:

“This report sheds new light on some of the most appalling abuses of Egypt’s justice system. In Ibrahim’s case, the authorities are detaining 494 people, regularly torturing them, and threatening them with the death penalty – all on the basis of a protest law that shouldn’t even be on the statute books anymore. The Irish government and others, including the UK, must raise this urgently with the Egyptian authorities, and call for Ibrahim Halawa and his co-defendants to be released without delay.”


Notes to editors

1. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications [AT] Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on katherine [DOT] oshea [AT]