LONDON / BRUSSELS / CAIRO, 17 NOVEMBER: A new trial observation report, published today by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, EuroMed Rights and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, has revealed multiple violations of international law committed by Egypt during the trial of Aya Hegazy, a dual US-Egyptian citizen and founder of the Belady Foundation charity.
The interim report, based on trial observations conducted in February and May 2016, finds that Ms Hegazy’s right to a fair trial, her right to the presumption of innocence, and her ability to mount an effective defence have all been violated, in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the African Charter, and the Egyptian Constitution.
Ms Hegazy was arrested in May 2014 and has been detained for 30 months, despite the fact that pre-trial detention should only be used in exceptional circumstances. The report notes that the court has given no explanation for their failure to grant bail, and concludes that Ms Hegazy’s ongoing detention is arbitrary and punitive in nature.
The report also highlights repeated delays and postponements caused to the case by judges and the prosecutor. Specific criticism is reserved for the prosecutor’s failure to produce any evidence in court, despite having 30 months to do so, and the court’s tardy and dismissive approach in failing to address this.
Systemic features of the Egyptian criminal justice system are also noted with concern, such as the use of cages to hold Ms Hegazy and other defendants in court, which demean the integrity of defendants and interfere with the presumption of innocence, and the lack of opportunities for defendants and lawyers to meet in private, restricting their ability to prepare for the trial.
The report’s recommendations include Ms Hegazy’s prompt release on bail, unless evidence can be provided to show that her pre-trial detention is justifiable, a commitment to hold all future hearings in public, and the immediate disclosure to the defence of all evidence relied on by the prosecution.
A further procedural hearing in Ms Hegazy’s case is due to take place in Cairo on 19th November 2016.
Kirsty Brimelow QC, Chairwoman of BHRC, said:
“Pre-trial detention should be only be used in exceptional cases, and yet Aya Hegazy has been held without trial for 30 months. The judge has granted automatic renewals to her detention without providing any reasons, and without any concern over the extensive and unjustified delays in her case. These are very serious violations of international law, which are designed to protect the citizen from arbitrary and unjustified detention at the hands of the State. The failure by the Egyptian courts to date to release Ms Hegazy from detention is unexplained and throws the fairness of her entire trial into question.”
Notes to editors
Aya Hegazy founded the Belady Foundation For the Support of Street Children with her husband Mohammed Hassanein, who was arrested alongside her and 6 others in May 2014.
The arrests have been subject to international condemnation from human rights and child rights organisations including BHRC and EuroMed Rights, and have been described as “yet another example of Egypt’s continued suppression of volunteer action and the quashing of youth and civil society initiatives.”