State must act if Ibrahim Halawa not freed on September 18th - family

Action against Egypt at ICJ required if date passes without release, says sister Somaia

The Government must initiate legal proceedings against Egypt if Ibrahim Halawa is not released on September 18th next, his family say.

Describing him as "our baby", Mr Halawa's sister Somaia said on Thursday the family, from Firhouse, Dublin, was "deeply devastated" that he had not been released as expected, on Monday of this week.

She said if the next court date in the case , September 18th, passed without his release and return to Ireland, the Government must initiate proceedings against Egypt at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), on the basis that her brother's human rights were being violated and Egyptian commitments given to the Irish Government breached.

Mr Halawa (21), has been held in an Egyptian prison since his arrest in Cairo in August 2013, along with hundreds of others, after taking part in a demonstration against the military ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood government.


Numerous court hearings have been delayed since and it was "time now to set a deadline", Ms Halawa said. "Imagine this was your brother, or your son or someone you loved."

Family ‘hopeless’

The family had been preparing to welcome him home before they heard of the further delay, but they now felt “hopeless”. She said her parents’ health was being affected and she was unsure how much more they could take.

Her brother’s absence from family celebrations and events felt like “part of your body is not there...It doesn’t feel there will ever be happiness until Ibrahim comes home...He’s our baby. It’s too much for a 17-year-old to be taken..It’s too hard.”

On Monday, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said former taoiseach Enda Kenny had been given a clear commitment by the Egyptian president that Mr Halawa would return home. The pledge was repeated in a telephone call to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week.

Mr Halawa is being held in the Wadi El Natrun prison north of Cairo - regarded as one of the most notorious prisons in Egypt, where human rights abuses have been documented, including severe overcrowding, lack of access to open air or exercise, beatings and lack of medical care. Mr Halawa, said his sister, was sharing a cell with 12 others and had only a yoga mat to sleep on, provided by Irish consular staff at the request of the Halawa family.

‘Reconsider approach’

The family's solicitor, Darragh Mackin of KRW Law, supported the family's call for the Government to "immediately reconsider its strategy and reconsider its approach" to its dealings with the Egyptian authorities on the case, and to initiate proceedings at the ICJ if necessary.

Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan, who has been advocating for the Halawa family, called on the Government to raise the case at EU level during the current review of the EU-Egypt Partnership Agreement.

She urged officials to seek that Mr Halawa be allowed a phone-call home to Dublin, as he has not spoken to his sisters or father - who face arrest if they go to Egypt - in four years. A brother and his mother have visited him.

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland is Social Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times