European Parliament calls on Egypt to release Irish juvenile facing death sentence

December 17, 2015

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling on Egypt to release Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish juvenile who faces a death sentence for attending protests.

In a vote this morning, an overwhelming majority of MEPs – 566 to 11 – voted for the resolution on Ibrahim’s case, which “calls on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him to the Irish authorities.” Ibrahim was 17 when he was arrested and tortured during the Egyptian military’s August 2013 breakup of protests in Cairo. He faces the death penalty in a mass trial of 494 people.

The resolution passed, with no amendments, despite apparent Egyptian efforts to block it earlier this week. In emails sent to a number of MEPs, Egyptian officials made a number of false claims about Ibrahim’s case. They include the suggestion that Ibrahim, now 20, may not have been a juvenile at the time of his arrest, in spite of a passport confirming his age; that he has been able to speak in court, when he has never had the opportunity to do so; and that he has not been subjected to physical abuse.

Today’s resolution repudiates these efforts, saying that the Egyptian authorities “have failed to recognise Ibrahim Halawa as a juvenile at the time of his arrest”, in violation of Egypt’s legal obligations, and that ”the prosecutor has failed to provide evidence that Ibrahim Halawa was involved in a single act of violence during the protests.” The resolution also “strongly condemns” Egypt’s the use of mass trials and the death penalty in relation to protests and the political opposition.

The vote follows Tuesday’s postponement of the mass trial for the 11th time in over two years. The trial is due to restart this Saturday (19th), amid concerns that it does not meet international fair trial standards. A series of chaotic hearings have seen defence lawyers prevented from taking part, and hundreds of the prisoners held in cages, where they are unable to see or hear the proceedings.

The Sisi government’s use of mass trials to hand down hundreds of death sentences to political protestors, journalists and others has provoked condemnation from the UN, the EU, and governments that are close to Egypt, including the US and the UK. Research by international human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Ibrahim, has found that the use of the death penalty has surged in Egypt since the suppression of protests began, with some 600 death sentences handed down in the last year alone.

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

“Despite the Egyptian government’s efforts, the European Parliament has sent a loud and clear message to Egypt today – release Ibrahim Halawa, and end the disgraceful use of mass trials and death sentences. Instead of trying to quash the growing calls for justice in Egypt, the Sisi government must listen – and reverse the terrible abuses taking place in its prisons and courts.”

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. For further information about Ibrahim Halawa’s case, see here.

3. The European Parliament resolution can be read in full here.

4. Reprieve’s report on Egypt’s use of the death penalty can be read here