Statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Regarding the Provision of Consular Services to Mr Hamouda
DFAT provided Mr Hamouda with full and appropriate consular support while he was detained.
The Australian Government regularly made high-level representations to senior Egyptian officials and Ministers in order to secure Mr Hazem Hamouda’s release from detention. Australia’s current and previous Ambassador to Egypt personally made 20 representations to the Egyptian Government on behalf of Mr Hamouda while he was detained. His detention was also raised by senior Canberra-based Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials with the Egyptian Ambassador to Australia.
DFAT closely followed Mr Hamouda’s legal processes, and the Australian Embassy in Cairo regularly visited him to monitor his health and welfare, making 11 visits to him while he was detained. Other Embassy officials also made numerous representations and inquiries. DFAT officials in Canberra and Cairo were in regular contact with Mr Hamouda’s legal representatives and lawyers, and also his family. DFAT officials contacted Mr Hamouda’s next of kin over 80 times between his arrest and his return to Australia.
Following Mr Hamouda’s release from detention on 6 March 2019, DFAT officials contacted Mr Hamouda’s family and advised that Mr Hamouda may not be able to leave the country without an Egyptian ID and evidence of military service. DFAT recommended the Hamouda family discuss these issues with their lawyer. Later that evening, Mr Hamouda attempted to leave Egypt and was denied exit as he did not have an Egyptian ID card and military service exemption paperwork.
Mr Hamouda’s family and legal team obtained the necessary paperwork by 31 March 2019. During this time, DFAT continued to provide support to the Hamouda family and was in regular contact with them and with their lawyers. On 2 April 2019, Mr Hamouda departed Egypt for Australia.
The Australian Government cannot get Australians better treatment in prison than local prisoners, even where local conditions appear harsh or dire by Australian standards. The Australian Government can, however, raise health and welfare concerns with local authorities, as DFAT did for Mr Hamouda.
DFAT, through its Smartraveller website, makes it clear to all Australian travellers before they leave Australia that when they visit another country they are bound by the laws and the legal processes in those countries. Smartraveller also outlines what to do if an Australian is arrested or detained overseas.
The nature and extent of consular assistance that can be provided to Australians overseas is set out in the Consular Services Charter. Consular assistance may include visits to prisons to monitor welfare, liaison with local authorities regarding an Australian’s well-being, provision of lists of local lawyers, and assistance communicating with family members or nominated contacts. Consular staff cannot provide legal advice, intervene in legal cases or get Australians out of prison, just as foreign embassy officials cannot do so in Australia. The legal aspects of Mr Hamouda’s case were a matter for Mr Hamouda’s legal representatives.