01/07/15 Senator Daly speaks on the Amnesty International Annual Report 2014 and the Ibrahim Halawa case.

Senator Daly: An interesting document entitled, How the State should approach the issue of torture, came from a civil servant in the then Department of Foreign Affairs in 1974, in which he suggested it should be to support proposals on humanitarian grounds where they do not create serious problems or are not impractical. In some instances, such as the case of Ibrahim Halawa, some NGOs have been asked not to issue statements.

I am surprised that in Amnesty International’s 2014 report that it never referred to the case of the Hooded Men, which has been used by countries such as Britain and the United States to justify the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, or what Amnesty would call torture. Doughty Chambers, along with Amal Clooney, is involved in the case of the Hooded Men. The Irish Government has taken the case up again and is bringing it back to Europe. If that ruling is overturned, the use of torture in Abu Ghraib and other instances in Iraq and Afghanistan will be deemed to have been torture. Will Ms Ashling Seely explain why this issue has not been addressed by Amnesty? It is our duty to overturn that case because then western countries cannot use enhanced interrogation techniques as they would call it, or torture.

This issue of torture is important in the case of Ibrahim Halawa. On 21 April, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a statement claiming there were inaccurate reports some weeks ago that Ibrahim Halawa was tortured. Amnesty International has said he was at risk of torture. Will Amnesty clarify this? Doughty Chambers has a 62-page report on it and believes he was tortured. Reprieve, an NGO, has said he has been subject to torture. A lawyer for Reprieve stated, the torture, degradation and mistreatment he has suffered at the hands of prison officials includes multiple physical beatings, use of blindfolds, the application of electric shock, denial of medical treatment for a gunshot wound sustained during the address, psychological torture from the prison guards who told him he would face the death penalty and be executed, taunting about his Irish nationality, being subject to sexual humiliation, being placed in highly overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, being placed in solitary confinement in a cell 0.5 sq.m, unable to lie down, no provision of adequate food, denial of access to paper and telephone and being held under the threat of potential death sentence.

That is the legal opinion of Reprieve, an NGO like Amnesty.

Reprieve’s legal team has put that forward. I suggest for the benefit of everyone that Amnesty International would get together with it, write back to the committee and someone would come up with a definition because either Amnesty International and the Department is correct that he has not been tortured or Reprieve is correct. According to Reprieve, in respect of the very substantive issues of the charges, according to his legal team’s opinion, his lawyer has yet to receive any formal confirmation of the fact the charges have been amended. The Taoiseach said in the Dáil that he is now facing lesser charges. This is very important because if he is facing lesser charges, according to the Egyptian code of criminal procedure, he should have been released last February because, under its code, he should only be detained for 18 months while facing the lesser charges. If he is facing the more serious charges, if he is not sentenced on 2 August, he should be released on 17 August. I will not say that the Taoiseach should intervene and ask for special favours or treatment for Ibrahim Halawa but should he pick up the phone to ask that he be treated the same as anyone else and that the law in Egypt, not any other law, be applied? Will Mr. O’Gorman tell us whether he thinks the Taoiseach should ask the President of Egypt to get involved?

I took issue with Mr. O’Gorman’s point that the world’s politicians have failed miserably and his comment that politicians who are in a position to make a difference should do so. We all know what the Canadian Prime Minister did about the Canadian citizen in Egypt and what the Australian Prime Minister did. In The Sunday Business Post, Mr. O’Gorman said the Irish Government must do everything in its power to bring Ibrahim Halawa home. I presume he would agree that the Taoiseach should pick up the phone but—–

—-Later—-

Senator Daly: I would appreciate it if Mr. O’Gorman would answer my question. An article in The Irish Timeson 23 June 2015 stated the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission backed down from making a statement on the case of Ibrahim Halawa after being told to do so by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. At any stage, did the Department ask Amnesty International not to make a statement or back down from making a statement? Was it implied that it would be counterproductive, to use the word from the official? This happened in respect of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission in April this year. Did it also happen in respect of Amnesty International?

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