Human rights violations in Egypt: EU must speak out!

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Although the case numbers and death toll in the Maghreb remain low, Covid-19 threatens economic and political stability in the region. Should Europe be worried, questions James Moran. [Khaled Elfiq/EPA/EFE]

The EU should be aware of plans to amend the Egyptian Constitution that could extend the power of the President indefinitely, showing the true intentions of an authoritarian state, writes Wahid Al-Asmar.

Wadih Al-Asmar is President of EuroMed Rights.

Last week, the European Parliament took a courageous stance by adopting an urgent resolution on Egypt, strongly condemning continuous restrictions on fundamental democratic rights in the country.

This week, on 20 December, EU high level representatives, including HR/VP Federica Mogherini, will meet with their Egyptian counterparts, for the EU-Egypt Association Council.

EuroMed Rights joins the European Parliament resolution’s call to maintain a strong and unified position on human rights at the EU-Egypt Association Council. The EU should not miss this crucial opportunity to denounce Egypt’s appalling human rights track record loudly and clearly. Silence on the EU’s part will be taken as an endorsement by the Egyptian authorities.

As the Association Council will review the state of EU-Egypt bilateral relations, dialogue on the protection and promotion of human rights should not be overlooked. As stressed in the EU guidelines on human rights, the issue of human rights, democracy and the rule of law must be discussed at the highest level and not only buried in technical documents.

Indeed, Egypt is far from being a democratic state and the elections of March 2018 have shown that no space is left for meaningful political opposition or critical media reporting.

EuroMed Rights is extremely worried about plans to amend the Egyptian Constitution that could extend the power of the President indefinitely, showing the true intentions of an authoritarian state. This goes hand in hand with the generalised crackdown on Egyptian civil society and activists conducted in recent years by Egyptian authorities.

Mass arrests, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, travel bans, asset freezes, and closure of independent NGOs: there is no limit to the repression. One of the latest examples is the enforced disappearance of human rights lawyer Ezzat Ghoneim, missing since September 2018.

Repressive laws, an increasingly politicised judiciary and a lack of enforcement of human rights, including those enshrined in the Egyptian constitution, encourage a climate of impunity. Egyptian authorities have recently made ample use of the death penalty: the latest death sentence in a mass political trial, far from the international guarantees of a fair trial, was confirmed on 24 September 2018, fitting an extremely concerning pattern resulting from unfair trials.”

We urge EU leaders and HR/VP Federica Mogherini to address the numerous human rights violations in Egypt. The EU should not ignore the consequences Egypt’s current direction will have on long-term stability, but should instead use its political leverage to promote a meaningful engagement on democracy and rule of law.

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