Ibrahim Halawa's family has appointed an experienced legal team to represent him on all Irish and international law issues: solicitor Darragh Mackin at KRW Law, Belfast, and barristers Caoilfhionn Gallagher, Katie O'Byrne and Mark Wassouf of Doughty Street Chambers, London.
The legal team says that there have been serious violations of Ibrahim Halawa's rights in the almost 2 years he has spent in custody in Egypt, and multiple breaches by Egypt of its international legal obligations. Ibrahim has endured arbitrary detention, torture and inhumane treatment, and he is now awaiting a mass trial which breaches the most basic standards of fairness, with his life at risk. His new legal team calls on the Irish Government to take urgent action to protect this young Irish citizen and to bring him home to Dublin.
On 17 August 2013, Ibrahim (then aged 17) was arrested along with hundreds of others who had sought refuge in a Cairo mosque from violent clashes between the security forces and protestors. He has been charged with serious offences, all of which he strongly denies. He now awaits a mass trial, with 493 others, and if convicted he may face the death penalty. He is unlikely to even be able to attend court for the trial, and he will not be able to hear or see the witnesses against him, call his own witnesses or give instructions to the Egyptian lawyer appointed to represent him.
Since his arrest, Ibrahim has endured horrific and sustained violations of his rights:
- During the arrest he received a gunshot wound to his hand but was denied medical treatment for this in prison, meaning his hand is now permanently disfigured.
- He is terrified as he faces the death penalty, and he has been told by prison staff that he will be executed.
- He has endured beatings, and on one occasion he was stripped naked and whipped with metal chains.
- He has been denied access to his lawyers and the charges against him are not specific to his alleged conduct.
- At times he has been crammed with 40 others into a cell designed to hold 10 people. At other times he has been kept in solitary confinement in a cell less than a metre square with no light and no toilet.
- He has been detained for almost 2 years with no meaningful reviews of his detention.
- Although he was a child aged 17 when arrested, he has been treated as an adult throughout the proceedings and he faces the death penalty despite a clear bar in international law on the use of the death penalty even for the most serious offences committed by children.
Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, the newly appointed solicitor for Ibrahim, said:
“Ibrahim’s welfare in Egyptian detention is a matter of grave concern. He has now undertaken a hunger strike, in a desperate attempt to campaign for his freedom from torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. He faces a grossly unfair mass trial, along with 493 others, in conditions which make a mockery of justice: he is unable to see his lawyer, understand the case against him, mount a defence, and he is unlikely to even be able to attend court during the trial. Egypt is acting with flagrant disregard for the fundamental principles and obligations of international law.
Ibrahim is an Irish citizen and there is a clear moral and legal obligation on the Irish Government to ensure that he is protected and treated in accordance with international law. More must be done by the Irish Government – and it must be done now, before it is too late.”
Ibrahim’s sister, Somaia Halawa, said:
“I want Ibrahim home. His mental state is deteriorating by the day and I am terrified about whether I will ever see him again. Our Government must take firm action to protect him. The Australian Government secured the release of his cellmate, Peter Greste – why can’t the Irish Government do the same for my brother?”
The legal team has provided a detailed legal Opinion to the Irish Government, explaining what action the family asks them to take in order to secure Ibrahim’s swift release. This includes making a formal diplomatic complaint to the Egyptian Government about how Ibrahim has been treated, and making a formal application for his deportation under Egyptian Law 140 of 2014. The Opinion also explains why it is wrong to suggest that Law 140 of 2014 does not apply while an individual is in the course of a trial process.
The legal team has also requested an urgent meeting with the Taoiseach and Minister for Foreign Affairs. No such meetings have yet been arranged but it is understood that their requests are currently under consideration.
A full press release is available here.
Photo: The Journal