Several Western countries expressed their concern about the trajectory of human rights in Egypt in a Friday joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry expressed “great surprise and disapproval” in reaction to the statement, which it said contained inaccurate and groundless information without proof.
The United States, which has observer status at the UN Human Rights Council, was among 31 signatories of the joint statement on Egypt.
“We draw particular attention to restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the constrained space for civil society and political opposition, and the application of terrorism legislation against peaceful critics. We recognize the new NGO Law that establishes a new legal framework more favourable for the operation of civil society organizations,” Finland’s ambassador Kirsti Kauppi said, reading out the statement to the Geneva forum.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that “Such statements that do not take into account the comprehensive Egyptian human rights efforts are unacceptable. The statement neglects has been achieved in this regard during the past years across all aspects of human rights either political, economic or social aspects.”
It also affirmed that it is also unacceptable to be easy going by making such a statement that does not take into account the comprehensive Egyptian efforts in the field of human rights in all its political, economic and social aspects, and what has been achieved in this regard during the past years.
The joint statement added that the signatories 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.
However, it urged Egypt to empower civil society actors working in all fields and to guarantee space for civil society – including human rights defenders.
“We call on Egypt to lift restrictions on media and digital freedom and to end the practice of blocking the websites of independent media outlets, and to release all journalists who have been arrested in the course of practising their profession,” the statement read.
The human rights committee of Egypt’s House of Representatives, headed by Tarek Radwan, also condemned, on Friday, the joint statement by the 31 countries.
“The committee is surprised about the purpose and timing of the statement, which was issued without real reasons other than the desire to intervene in the Egyptian internal affairs,” the committee added.
The human rights committee stressed that the joint declaration included the issue of the EIPR staff, which has been already resolved months ago. The committee expressed “great surprise of citing this case, “which indicates that dealing with Egyptian human rights record is not based on facts.”