Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres met with the director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) Bahey eldin Hassan at the Secretary-General’s office at the UN’s headquarters in New York yesterday, July 13th.
In the meeting, Hassan underscored the need for the UN to take the lead in addressing the underlying causes of chaos and instability in the Middle East, especially in light of the decaying role of regional institutions such as the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Hassan explained that the Arab Spring is not the cause of the current turmoil in the region but rather, the Arab Spring and the ensuing instability is a consequence of some Arab governments’ decades-long resistance to genuine reform. Hassan added that the ongoing chaos was also fueled by some Arab governments’ transformation of the Arab Spring into civil conflicts, which created the vacuum exploited by terrorism.
Hassan called on the Secretary-General to prioritize the rebuilding of the political infrastructure of failing Arab states in light of the turbulent state of instability that struck the region.
The situation in Egypt was also addressed in the meeting, where Hassan highlighted the unprecedented deterioration in the rights situation, including extrajudicial killings, rampant torture and imprisonment of tens of thousands in politicized trials, the muffling of independent media, and the violent crushing of peaceful dissent. He further asserted that those practices aim to eliminate the liberal democratic alternative to President Sisi’s failing rule. Hassan also pointed to the unprecedented crackdown on independent human rights activism, with the aim of eradicating it, and how the government punishes human rights defenders for their cooperation with the UN in a clear case of reprisal. It’s noteworthy that Hassan has been accused of “threatening national security” for his meetings with the former UN Secretary-General, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
During the meeting, Hassan handed to the Secretary-General a written submission documenting the Sisi government’s reprisals against human rights defenders, adding that his meeting with Guterres will likely be considered as evidence against him as well.
Hassan partially attributed the deteriorating rights situation in Egypt and the failure in addressing terrorism to the international community’s silence on the gross human rights crimes that have taken place since July 2013. Hassan added that the UN should consider establishing a human rights mechanism to closely monitor the situation in Egypt. Hassan presented to the Secretary-General a joint letter by CIHRS and 9 international human rights organizations addressing this issue.
After the meeting, Hassan stated that President Sisi violates the constitution on a daily basis and politicizes judicial bodies and subjects them to the control of his security bodies, creating a state of lawlessness. President Sisi’s recent issuing of a law that empowers him to appoint heads of courts, despite objection from the judiciary, left many Egyptians no choice but to take up their collective grievances to mechanisms regulated by international law or to take the law into their own hands. Due to those policies and practices, terrorism has expanded, under President Sisi’s tenure, from a limited area on the Sinai borders to the rest of Egypt, resulting in the death of 100 Coptic Christians in five months. While new militant groups are forming to take revenge against judges, and army and police officers, President Sisi is prioritizing the silencing of all -secular and Islamist- peaceful dissent, in politics, media, academia, syndicates, and civil society.
Hassan is also scheduled to participate in a meeting today with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad, at the Commission’s headquarters in New York.
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