- Hassan has met with the Tunisian Prime Minister and EU Human Rights and Counterterrorism Officials
Bahey eldin Hassan, the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, gave a statement before the European Parliament on the morning of Thursday, May 28, in a session dedicated to discussing the human rights situation in Egypt.
Before the session, he met with Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid and conveyed his congratulations for Tunisia’s progress on the road to democratic transition—in spite of the challenge of fighting terrorism— as well as its avoidance of the eradication approach towards opposition, and its openness to Tunisian, Arab and international civil society organizations.
Hassan expressed his appreciation of Tunisian President Qaid al-Sebsi’s recent commitment not to endorse any legislation in contradiction with human rights. Prime Minister Essid affirmed his own commitment to the same position and noted his government does not represent one single political orientation, but an alliance of different trends. Essid invited Hassan to meet with him in his Tunis office.
Significantly, Bahey eldin Hassan also met with Gilles de Kerchove, Director for EU Counterterrorism Coordination, and Silvio Gonzato, Director for Human Rights and Democracy at the European External Action Service, as well as a number of international human rights organizations and think tanks.
Hassan opened his talk by noting the arbitrary treatment faced by lawyer Negad El-Borai, who is being questioned merely for cooperating with two judges to draft an anti-torture law. This follows an investigation into these judges on charges of working with an illegal institution—although El-Borai’s law firm has been in existence for 74 years. Parliamentarians were taken aback at this news. Hassan added this is an example of the current repression in Egypt targeting all forces, including the human rights movement.
He focused in his presentation on the repeated violations of the right to life and the lack of accountability for human rights violators in light of the politicization of the justice system in Egypt. This has led to the open contempt of the law and Constitution on a daily basis, seen in mass death sentences or life sentences handed down to hundreds of secular young people who took part in the January 25 revolution.
He stated Egypt has become a republic of fear in which politics is absent, and the current administration is controlling the political process with no notable accountability or oversight. Parliamentary elections have been postponed more than once and there is currently no date set for them. Hassan said that the Egyptian government has struck hard at all parties and peaceful actors—secular or Islamic—and has been using the slogan of war on terror as a pretext for its war on the basic rights and liberties of individuals of all political orientations.
Hassan expressed his fear that these practices will push the country into violence and chaos more quickly than anyone imagines. As the government exploits terrorism and its confrontation with terrorist groups to justify the crackdown on liberties, these practices inevitably nourish these groups and enable them to attract more sympathizers and followers.
Egypt has seen an assault on the right to peaceful protest and freedom of association, as well as a wave of imprisonments of human rights defenders. For the first time since the birth of the Egyptian rights movement three decades ago, staff working at civil society organizations have been the focus of politicized investigations in connection to foreign funding and smear campaigns; a number of them have been banned from travel abroad, and some have received death threats or been evicted from their homes.
Hassan concluded his talk by emphasizing that there is no choice between combatting violent extremism and respecting human rights. It is a choice between false, short-term stability and real, durable stability. There can be no victory over extremism, including in Egypt, except by fighting the causes and roots of its spread, including through confronting religious discourse that promotes violence, be it from governmental religious establishments or from extremist groups.
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