UK Defence Secretary praises Egypt: Reprieve comment

August 6, 2015

Image of a shadow of a noose hanging on a cracked wall

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has praised what he says is Egypt’s “vision of a more prosperous, more democratic society.”

Writing in Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram on the day of the opening of a new section of the Suez Canal, Mr Fallon said that the UK stood “shoulder to shoulder” with Egypt, but made no reference to the human rights situation in the country.

The article comes amid concerns over the fate of thousands of prisoners who have faced mass trials and the death penalty as part of a two-year-long crackdown on dissent by the Sisi government. They include Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish teenager who was arrested during the military’s breakup of protests in August 2013. Ibrahim, who faces a death sentence alongside 493 others in mass proceedings, has endured torture and mistreatment throughout his detention. Last weekend, his mass trial at Wadi Natrun prison, where conditions are poor, was postponed for the 9th time.

The UK Foreign Office has previously told human rights organization Reprieve that it is “monitoring” Ibrahim’s case, and that it has “concerns over the use of mass death sentences and the large number of people in pre-trial detention.”

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“At a time when Egypt’s jails are heaving with jailed protestors and journalists, torture is rife, and thousands are facing mass death sentences, it is disgraceful that Michael Fallon sees fit to praise Egypt’s government in such unqualified terms. To prisoners like Ibrahim Halawa, who is enduring regular torture and a Kafkaesque mass trial, talk of Sisi’s ‘vision of a more prosperous, more democratic society’ is a sick joke. If the defence secretary truly wants to support Egypt, he must tell Sisi to reverse the terrible human rights abuses of the last two years – and to release the many victims of the crackdown, such as Ibrahim.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For more information, please contact Reprieve’s press office: alice [DOT] gillham [AT] reprieve.org.uk, or +44 207 553 8140