Human Rights Week: Legal Expert Looks Back On Cairo Trial Experiences

Trial Observation Puts Spotlight On International Human Rights

11.12.2014

With Human Rights Week underway and highlighting the important work done in the area across the globe, a specialist public lawyer at Irwin Mitchell has spoken of her experiences when she took up an opportunity offered by the Solicitors International Human Rights Group (SIHRG) to observe a trial in Cairo earlier this year.

Anne-Marie Irwin was selected by the SIHRG committee to travel to Egypt to observe the trial of Alaa Abdel Fattah, a prominent civil rights activist arrested in November 2013 in relation to offences under the country’s laws banning protest without prior approval from authorities.

In June this year, Fattah and 24 others were sentenced, without being present at court, to 15 years of prison, a fine of EGP 100,000 and five years’ probation. A further hearing was  listed for 22 July following an application for a re-trial, but then relisted for August before being postponed until September.*

During the observation in July, Anne-Marie met with Fattah’s lawyer, members of human rights groups and the judiciary to discuss concerns about the violation of fundamental human rights in Egypt.

Expert Opinion
Despite the postponement of the trial, we were able to report back with the information gathered from our meetings and to enable a press release to be filed expressing EMHRN's deep concern about the postponement and the continued detention of Alaa.

"When asked whether they felt our presence and the international interest in the case was helpful, the Egyptian defence lawyers responded with a resounding 'yes'.

"My experience was a vigorous reminder of the ease with which fundamental rights and freedoms can be overlooked in the interests of security and of the absolute need to protect the independence of the judiciary.

"It is vital that SIHRG and other organisations continue to undertake independent monitoring in Egypt and elsewhere so that lawyers can be made aware of threats to justice and to defend against them. My thanks to all members of SIHRG who provide the funds for this and similar missions."
Anne-Marie Irwin, Associate

*On 18 August 2014, Alaa Abdel Fattah went on hunger strike to protest against the conditions and grounds of his detention. The Court repeatedly refused his application for bail. On 15 September 2014, the three judges’ panel appointed to this case stepped down and granted Alaa Abdel Fattah bail.