Egypt received a scathing international condemnation on Friday over its human rights record from more than 30 nations during the on-going session of the UN Human Rights Council.
The statement urged the Egyptian government to halt repression of human rights and civil society activists, dissidents, lawyers, critics and LGBTI individuals, many of them persecuted under the blanket excuse of fighting terrorism.
Among the signatories were the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy, key economic and military partners of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, an enthusiastic customer for weapons made by western countries.
“We remain deeply concerned about the trajectory of human rights in Egypt,” said a statement issued by Kirsti Kauppi, the Finnish ambassador to the human rights council.
“We urge Egypt to guarantee space for civil society – including human rights defenders – to work without fear of intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention or any other form of reprisal.”
The 31 nations signing onto the statement are the largest contingent denouncing Egypt via the human rights council since Mr. Sisi came to power in 2013 after toppling the country’s first freely elected president.
More states may sign on to the statement over the next month. But the signatories were mostly confined to western and European nations, and included no Arab, African, or Asian countries. Bosnia was the only Muslim-majority country that supported it.
Egypt has yet to respond to the declaration. It has a long record of condemning any international attention on its human rights abuses as unwelcome foreign interference.
Egypt has for years deftly deflected international concerns by focusing attention on its counter-terrorism and security challenges, and unlike Iran, Russia, or China has escaped harsh western scrutiny for its human rights violations.
Former US President Donald Trump famously referred to Mr. Sisi as “my favourite dictator” and overlooked all but persecution of American nationals.
“The March 12 declaration ends years of a lack of collective action at the UN Human Rights Council on Egypt, despite the sharply deteriorating human rights situation in the country,” Bahey el din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said in a statement.
“Countries should continue to make it clear to the Egyptian government that it will no longer have a carte blanche to arbitrarily imprison, torture or violate the right to life or unlawfully kill people.”
Mr. Sisi, a former military and intelligence officer, launched an escalating crackdown to roll back democratic gains won in the aftermath of a 2011 uprising. The human rights council statement urged Egypt to open up civil society, and lift travel bans and asset freezes targeting groups such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the country’s most prominent human rights watchdog.
It also called on Egypt to stop blocking the websites of independent media outlets.
None of the western countries that signed has indicated it was willing to halt arms to Egypt, which have blossomed under Mr. Sisi, according to a report in October by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
According to the report, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Netherlands have sold Mr. Sisi fighter jets, military transport planes, submarines, aerial drones, radar and control systems, naval warships, and guns.
“Egypt’s arms procurement expanded significantly after al-Sisi became president,” said the report. “Notably, France…has emerged as one of the largest arms suppliers to Egypt, alongside Russia.”
The statement by Ms Kauppi gave a nod to the increasing security partnership between Mr. Sisi and the west, while warning of overreach.
“We recognise Egypt’s role in supporting regional stability, managing migration, fighting against terrorism, and recall the need to counter terrorism in full respect of international human rights law,” she said.
“However, we are deeply concerned about the application of terrorism legislation against human rights activists, LGBTI persons, journalists, politicians and lawyers.” (Source: The Independent)