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EU lawmakers demand scrutiny of Egypt’s human rights record

25th Feb 2022
EU lawmakers demand scrutiny of Egypt’s human rights record

Solidarity protest held in Berlin on September 22, 2019, denouncing military rule and calling for the release of political prisoners (Credit: Hossam el-Hamalawy/Flickr Commons)


Harun Nasrullah

Over 170 EU and UK parliamentarians have co-signed a statement imploring their governments and the UN to bring Egypt’s “devastating” human rights situation under closer international scrutiny.

In addition, the lawmakers asked the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to set up a monitoring and reporting mechanism for Egypt at its next meeting on February 28.

“We are extremely concerned about the international community’s persistent failure to take any meaningful action to address Egypt’s human rights crisis,” read the statement signed by 175 parliamentarians and issued on February 3.

“This failure, along with continued support to the Egyptian Government and reluctance to even speak up against pervasive abuses, has only deepened the Egyptian authorities´ sense of impunity,” it added.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has reversed a number of freedoms and has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group since taking power in 2013.

Many of those who have been imprisoned in recent years include human and civil rights activists who were involved in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that toppled the country’s long-time autocrat, Hosni Mubarak.

“Despite this devastating picture, the international community has by and large limited its reaction to rare, occasional statements of concern at the UN Human Rights Council,” added the statement.

The parliamentarians’ appeal comes shortly after recently-freed Egyptian-Palestinian activist Ramy Shaath spoke before the EU Parliament’s Human Rights Subcommittee about torture, beatings and what he described as “inhumane” living conditions in Egyptian prisons.

Last month, Shaath was released from a Cairo prison where he had spent nearly two years and a half in pre-trial detention over allegations of having ties with an outlawed group. Upon his release, he was deported after being forced to renounce his Egyptian citizenship. He eventually landed in Paris with his French wife, Céline Lebrun Shaath.

“The legal system is politicised and not independent,” Shaath told the EU Parliament on January 26. “Egyptian officers would say many times in prison ‘We are not subject to any law, we can take you, we can kill you, we can bury you, we can torture you, you are ours’.”

Last year, Egyptian authorities released a few activists and journalists whose detention had stirred a global outcry. El-Sissi also launched what he dubbed a “national human rights strategy” that was aimed at upgrading the conditions of human rights in Egypt. However, such moves fell short of convincing his detractors that he was genuinely embracing a new course of action.

“We take note of some recent modest steps taken or announced by the Egyptian authorities,” said the EU parliamentarians. “Yet we regret that these steps hardly constitute anything more than an effort to whitewash their dismal human rights record.”

Sisi has overseen what Human Rights Watch has described as the worst crackdown on human rights in the country’s modern history.

In the group’s World Report 2022, it said Egypt’s security forces have regularly acted with impunity, routinely conducting arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and torture of real or suspected political activists as well as ordinary citizens.

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