Egypt: European Parliament demands accountability for officials involved in rights violations and calls for leadership on UN mechanism to examine rights abuses

In Egypt /Road Map Program, Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies welcomes the European Parliament’s newest resolution on Egypt, adopted in the plenary session of Friday, 18 December 2020 by a majority of 434 MEPs. The resolution spotlights the continued deterioration of human rights in the country as the Egyptian authorities systematically use enforced disappearance and “continue to brutally and systematically repress any form of dissent, thereby undermining core freedoms,” amid an escalating crackdown targeting civil society, human rights defenders, journalists, academics, lawyers, and doctors.

A year after the October 2019 resolution on Egypt, this latest resolution is yet another warning to the Egyptian authorities that respect for human rights and basic freedoms is a key element of EU-Egypt relations and that giving civil society space to operate is a joint commitment enshrined in the EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities.

During the parliamentary debate yesterday, 21 MEPs made statements about the situation in Egypt; the debate focused on the scope of repression in the country and the targeting of journalists and human rights defenders. MEPs called for their release, and for a strong, unified European response including through targeted sanctions against Egyptians responsible for rights violations. Several denounced arms sales to Egypt, in particular from France, and criticized the French authorities’ decision to honor Al-Sisi with the Légion d’Honneur decoration.

The resolution contains 15 recommendations for Egypt to improve the human rights situation in concrete ways, first and foremost through an independent, transparent investigation into all human rights abuses and accountability for perpetrators. It urges EU Member States to adopt targeted sanctions against high-level Egyptian officials responsible for grave human rights violations, and to take the lead at the coming session of the UN Human Rights Council to create a long-awaited mechanism for documenting and reporting grave human rights violations in Egypt. The EU lawmakers further highlighted the Egyptian authorities’ hindering of the investigations into the abduction, torture, and killing of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni and the death of French teacher Eric Lang in police custody in 2013, which has precluded accountability for those responsible.

The resolution calls on the Egyptian authorities to review “any abusive legislation, in particular its 2019 NGO law and its counterterrorism law”, which have been broadly deployed to attack rights defenders and intimidate opposition. It further urges them to close case no. 173/2011 (known as the Foreign Funding Case) and lift the travel bans and asset freezes issued against at least 31 rights defenders and staff at rights organizations, within the case.

In the same resolution, the European parliament called on the Egyptian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release people arbitrarily detained and convicted because of their legitimate human rights work and peaceful struggle, among them Patrick George Zaki, Mohamed Ibrahim, Mohamed Ramadan, Abdelrahman Tarek, Ezzat Ghoneim, Haytham Mohamadeen, Alaa Abdel Fattah, Ibrahim Metwally Hegazy, Mahienour El-Massry, Mohamed El-Baqer, Hoda Abdelmoniem, Ahmad Amasha, Islam El-Kalhy, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, Esraa Abdel Fattah, Ramy Kamel, Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, Zyad el-Elaimy, Hassan Barbary, Ramy Shaath, Sanaa Seif, Solafa Magdy, Hossam al-Sayyad, Mahmoud Hussein, and Kamal El-Balshy.

The resolution calls for an end to all manner of persecution of women “on the grounds of ‘violation of morals’”, and recommends the adoption of a comprehensive law on violence against women and a national strategy to enforce laws countering sexual violence. In addition, it calls for an immediate end to the arrest and prosecution of members of the LGBT community and to the harassment of any individuals on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation.

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