Egypt’s Human Rights Status Comes Under Scrutiny in Upr

The status of human rights in Egypt during the past four years will come under scrutiny on Wednesday, as the Arab country gears up for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Reviewing four years which have witnessed Egypt’s most politically volatile conditions in decades, the Egyptian authorities have long prepared for Wednesday’s session.

Egypt’s official delegation to the UPR, headed by Minister of Transitional Justice and the House of Representatives Ibrahim al-Heneidi, arrived in Geneva on Sunday to prepare for the review. The government has submitted its report on the human rights status during the past four years in July.

Geneva is also host to a group of Muslim Brotherhood figures who will be responding to the government’s report in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.

THE BROTHEROOD’S “ALTERNATIVE” REPORT

The Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party announced on Saturday having prepared an “alternative” report “to expose the atrocious reality of the military dictatorship ruling Egypt.”

The Muslim Brotherhood has come under fire since the military ouster of its leader Mohamed Mursi from the presidency in July 2013. The military installed regime has since then rounded up thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters and killed hundreds of protesters in confrontations with security forces.

“We firmly believe that change in Egypt will come about from within our homeland, not from the outside,” Brotherhood leading figure Amr Darrag said in Geneva on Tuesday. “We will certainly not seek to change any situation in Egypt from abroad.”

Egypt listed the Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation last December and insists it is behind the stringent wave of militancy which has targeted security personnel since Mursi’s ouster. The Brotherhood continuously denies the accusations, distancing itself from one militant attack after the other.

The Egyptian delegation will be presenting at the UPR “photos to illustrate violent and terrorist acts committed by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”

DRAMATIC HUMAN RIGHTS REVERSAL

International watchdog Human Rights Watch described the situation in Egypt as “the most dramatic reversal of human rights in Egypt’s modern history under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.” In a statement released ahead of the UPR on Tuesday, the organisation urged Egypt’s allies, especially the United States to hold the country to account regarding its abuse of human rights.

The Forum of Independent Human Rights Organisations, comprised of 19 domestic rights groups, submitted in March its independent report to the UN Human Rights Council, where it tracked “huge deterioration” in Egypt’s human rights status during the past four months.

Seven members of the forum announced on Tuesday night their withdrawal from the UPR due to fear of “retaliatory measures or persecution” by the Egyptian authorities.

WITHDRAWING FROM THE UPR

The groups, which include the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information and the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, said the current environment in Egypt “antagonises the work of independent human rights organisations.”

The ministry of social solidarity urged on July 18 all domestic and international NGOs operating within Egypt to register under Law 842002, which governs the activities of NGOs, before September 2. The deadline was later extended, to become November 10.

The law has widely been condemned by civil society organisations for granting the government control over NGOs.

Some civil society organisations operating in Egypt are registered as law firms or nonprofit companies to escape registration under the law in question. They are now at risk of being shut down once the deadline arrives.

HRW said a number of high-profile human rights defenders have fled the country in reaction over the government’s keenness to pursue Law 842002. It added that some of the activists said they have been warned to register under the law, while others were “threatened with physical violence.”

“Washington, London, Paris, and other capitals have failed to confront Egypt’s dramatic reversal of human rights,” said Philippe Dam, acting Geneva office director at Human Rights Watch. “They should make clear that silencing independent groups will hurt Egypt’s relations with its allies.”

100 RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE AUTHORITIES

The domestic forum has prepared a set of over 100 recommendations to the Egyptian authorities addressing the general human rights situation. A large number of the recommendations focused on enforcing the human rights-related provisions in Egypt’s latest constitution, which passed in landslide in January.

The Egyptian authorities take pride in the constitutional provisions which address human rights. The report submitted to the Human Rights Council in July “attributes” to the constitution and the “unprecedented” articles it includes which “stress Egypt’s full commitment to international conventions … and basic rights and freedoms,” the foreign ministry said on Sunday.

The forum nevertheless stressed that Egypt’s legislations need to be amended to “make them concord with international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt.”

The UPR is held for each UN member-state every four years to assess its human rights conditions. Egypt’s first UPR was held in 2010, shortly before former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was toppled.

Egypt’s UPR session will be moderated by three countries Saudi Arabia, the Ivory Coast and Montenegro.

The review will go through human rights developments since the January 2011 uprising which toppled Mubarak, the foreign ministry said. It would also address recent controversial incidents such as the mass death sentences served to over 1000 Brotherhood supporters, the law governing civil society organisations and the freedom of the press.

The session will conclude on November 7 with issuing a set of recommendations for Egypt to adopt until its next UPR session four years from now.

Source : Aswat Masriya