The UN International Council for Human Rights held a conference on Thursday in Geneva during which a recommendation was issued calling for the establishment of an international committee to investigate conditions inside Egypt’s prisons.
The UN conference discussed the status of detainees and the judicial system in a number of countries, including Egypt. The conference was attended by international human rights defendants, representatives from NGOs, and political activists.
Several countries expressed their concerns about human rights violations allegedly committed by Egyptian security authorities against human rights defendants and activists.
On behalf of the European Union, the Netherlands expressed its concerns about such violations in Egypt and asserted that the EU supports lawful counter-terrorism efforts.
Germany, Switzerland, and the United States agreed that the state of human rights in Egypt is deteriorating and expressed concerns about military trials for civilians and mass verdicts of capital punishment.
Denmark called on the Egyptian government to take more steps to activate the human rights articles included in the Egyptian constitution, such as articles that guarantee fair trial to any indicted person.
Participants in the conference focused their discussion on the phenomenon of enforced disappearances in Egypt and the case of Italian PhD candidate Guilio Regeni, whose body was found in a ditch earlier in February showing signs of torture.
Furthermore, they discussed Egyptian prisons, alleging that the current administration violates international criteria.
State-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported statements from Egypt’s permanent UN representative Amro Ramadan who fired back against US and EU criticism, saying that alleged human rights violations in Egypt are meaningless and lack credibility. He asserted the non-existence of forced disappearances, claiming that those alleged to have disappeared were, in fact, arrested over clear charges following a decision by the prosecution, and their families were acknowledged and a lawyer attended the proceedings.
Ramadan criticised European countries regarding the Syrian refugee crisis. He alleged that refugees are very miserable after facing strict EU laws and measurements to hinder easy entrance and impose barriers on borders to limit the number of refugees who can enter EU countries.
Regarding restrictions on the work of NGOs in Egypt, Ramadan said the number of NGOs increased in 2016 and there are now more than 47,000 NGOs compared to 26,000 in 2010.
He explained that no organisation has the right to comment on Egypt’s judicial verdicts. Ramadan went on to say that freedom of expression is guaranteed, according to Egypt’s new constitution, and Egyptian law guarantees the right to demonstrate unlike the Swiss law which fines those who demonstrate without permission.
Ramadan asked EU countries to respect its laws and human rights, noting that EU countries and the US have committed crimes against humanity, including murder, discrimination against minorities, and torture inside prisons.
The European Parliament recently held a plenary session in Strasbourg where MEPs discussed reported cases of human rights violations and the necessity to adopt urgent resolutions against Egypt.
A 588-member majority voted in favour of the proposed resolution while 10 MEPs voted against the measure. The European Parliament’s actions follow a motion for a resolution, addressing the condition of human rights in the country, with particular focus on the case of Italian national and PhD candidate Giulio Regeni.
The resolution recommended an EU-wide embargo on the export of any form of security equipment and military aid to Egypt, condemning the continued security cooperation and arms dealing between Egypt and EU member states, notably France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.