United Nations member countries offered strong criticism and scores of recommendations addressing the country’s human rights crisis, during the recent Egypt’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, November 27.
During the review, countries across all regions called on Egypt to end torture and ill-treatment, investigate crimes committed by security forces, allow nongovernmental organizations and activists to work independently, and protect human rights while countering terrorism.
Many countries also said that Egypt should halt executions and review its laws to minimize or end the use of the death penalty.
Several countries said that Egypt should take more serious measures to halt violence against women, including by criminalizing domestic violence and by prosecuting those responsible for female genital mutilation, which is still widely practiced.
“The strong criticism of Egypt from countries across the world shows the international community is waking up to the human rights crisis in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s important for these countries to follow-up with Egypt directly to take concrete measures to adopt their recommendations.”
Established in 2006, the Universal Periodic Review involves a comprehensive review of the human rights records of all UN member states by other countries in a rotation every four and a half years. Local and international organizations, as well as the country under review, have the opportunity to contribute reports to inform the review process.
Following each review, a group of three member states collaborate with the state under review, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights will produce an “outcome report” that includes the recommendations presented and the responses of the state under review.
Egypt has several months to accept or reject the recommendations. The Human Right Council will adopt the UPR report, including the recommendations, at its session in March 2020. More than 130 countries offered 372 recommendations.
Unlike previous UPR cycles, Egypt did not immediately accept any recommendations, and said it will use the time available to consider them.
Although Egypt accepted recommendations to improve its human rights record during previous UPR cycles, and promised several times to amend its laws to strictly prohibit and punish torture, the government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has moved in the opposite direction.
Since assuming office, the al-Sisi government has issued more laws that grant impunity for army and police officers and has generally failed to transparently investigate and prosecute serious human rights violations, including apparent crimes against humanity.
The head of the Egyptian government delegation, Omar Marwan, claimed during the November 13 review that “Egypt had exerted its utmost efforts for the past five years to implement the [earlier]recommendations.”
In its previous review in 2014, Egypt accepted 224 out of 300 recommendations. However, the government carried out few of these recommendations and human rights violations have since dramatically escalated.
Countries at the Human Rights Council should continue to exert pressure on Egypt to reform its human rights record, including by expressing concerns through collective statements during upcoming sessions of the council in 2020. (Source: HRW)