The head of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee Alaa Abed demanded the trial of Egyptian NGOs that took a stance against the country’s candidate Moushira Khattab in the elections of a UNESCO director-general taking place this week.
According to state-media on Tuesday, Abed described such as NGOs as “dubious, unpatriotic, and as dangerous as Human Rights Watch.”
The latter was the subject of anger among government institutions and officials over a report issued in August on torture in detention centres.
Six NGOs issued a statement on Saturday, including Al-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Nazra for Feminist Studies, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), and the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies.
“We are sorry to see an Egyptian candidate who kept silent on the shutdown of public libraries,” read the statement published by El-Nadeem Centre. It added that Khattab had personally visited and applauded one of those libraries, owned by human rights activist and lawyer Gamal Eid.
The NGOs argued that Egypt did not deserve the position because of oppressive government measures against freedoms and rights. The six organisations that signed the statement are under state watch and in some cases legal prosecution against the backdrop of the 2011 NGOs case. They report on general freedom and human rights violations.
Pro-state leftist Al-Tagammu Party similarly criticised the NGOs. In a statement issued Sunday, the party—supporting Khattab—said the NGOs were under prosecution over illicit foreign funding and called their stance “shameful”.
UNESCO elections kicked off on Monday. Khattab ranked third after the Qatari and French candidates respectively, amid ongoing voting rounds.