The failure of the Egyptian government to uphold its obligations according to the constitution and international law was subject to wide criticism during the interactive dialogue on the adoption of the UPR Report of Egypt on March 12 during the session of Egypt’s Universal Periodic Review outcome within the activities of the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Egyptian government has continued to commit violations throughout its UPR process, blatantly disregarding UN and member state recommendations while at the same time undermining the UPR process, threatening to turn it into a farce.
As underscored by CIHRS at the Council, not only does the Egyptian government continue to amplify its already unprecedented levels of repression in the country, it disingenuously attempts to deceive or mislead the Council about human rights conditions in Egypt. CIHRS urged states to scrutinize the government’s misleading claims about human rights when following up on the recommendations they made during the UPR process.
The disparity between the Egyptian government’s claims, in contrast to the reality of the deteriorating human rights situation in the country, was highlighted in three joint interventions delivered by CIHRS, the first of which was delivered by CIHRS on behalf of the Egyptian Taskforce for Human Rights, comprised of independent Egyptian human rights organizations that worked together to make a joint submission to the process. The three interventions emphasized the Egyptian government’s continued perpetration of grave violations and abuses in spite of the recommendations it has received from the council’s member states (372 recommendations) within the UPR mechanism for its two rounds in November 2019 and March 2020.
One such misleading claim by the Egyptian government, underscored in a joint intervention by CIHRS and the Defend Defenders Network, is its claim that it views acts of intimidation or reprisal against those who cooperate with the HRC and its mechanisms as “wholly unacceptable. Yet the Egyptian government commits these “wholly unacceptable” acts against its own citizens – with increasing frequency – for engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, practicing a “pattern of reprisals” identified in a report by the UN Secretary General. These reprisals include prosecution and detention, travel bans, smear campaigns, and other violations or acts of intimidation and violence.
Travel bans are not only used by the Egyptian government as a means of reprisal, they also prevent human rights defenders and others from engaging actively in the UPR process. At the time of the UPR review process, at least 37 human rights defenders were subjected to travel bans and therefore unable to engage actively in the UPR, detracting from the integrity and credibility of the process, as recalled by CIHRS in an intervention with FIDH.
CIHRS further underscored that the government’s claims that “any forms of legally unjustified deprivation of liberty are prohibited in all circumstance” are at complete odds with a reality in which hundreds of peaceful critics of the government are detained on an unjustified legal basis, including journalists, politicians and former parliamentarians, academics, lawyers and human rights and democracy activists since November 2019 alone. This is in addition to thousands of other detainees held on flimsy legal grounds or sentenced to prison terms after grossly unfair trials. Detainees are often subjected to severe violations in prison, including torture, medical negligence, and inhumane and unsanitary conditions.
The oral intervention delivered on behalf of the Egyptian Taskforce for Human Rights discussed Egypt’s systematic use of anti-terrorism legislation to legitimize the ongoing campaign to silence and eradicate independent civil society and confront journalists and political parties, and to justify a broad campaign to silence all voices of peaceful opposition, as well as using it as a pretext for a failure to improve the deteriorating and deadly conditions of detention in Egypt. An earlier oral intervention by CIHRS at the UN Council session also highlighted the Egyptian government’s record of exploiting counterterrorism as a façade to mask restrictions on basic freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of religion, in response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on counter-terrorism issued during this session, which discussed in part a file on combating terrorism in Egypt and respect for human rights.
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