Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1230, (22 - 28 January 2015)

Ahram Weekly

‘Nothing to hide’

Officials have condemned a European Parliament report that criticises Egypt’s rights record, reports Ahmed Morsy

‘Nothing to hide’
‘Nothing to hide’
Al-Ahram Weekly

The Foreign Ministry has slammed a report issued by the European Parliament that criticises human rights in Egypt, saying it includes allegations and false information and reflects a lack of awareness of the reality on the ground in Egypt.

“Since July 2013 more than 40,000 protesters have been arrested and 1,400 others killed due to excessive use of force by the security forces,” claims the European Parliament report, released on 15 January.

The report calls on the Egyptian government to release all political detainees and expresses concern over “restrictions” imposed on fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, the right to assembly, restrictions on NGOs and a recent crackdown on homosexuals.

The Foreign Ministry responded on the same day the report was released, issuing a statement which read, in part: “Egypt is perplexed by, and deplores, the 15 January report by the European Parliament on the internal situation in Egypt. The European Parliament’s approach does not serve bilateral relations between Egypt and the European Union.

“The European Parliament’s report opposes the sovereign will of the Egyptian people and damages bilateral relations between Egypt and the European Union. The report’s content infringes basic principles of the separation of powers.”

The Foreign Ministry called on the European Parliament to ensure that the information on which such reports are based is accurate. “There is little doubt,” the Foreign Ministry statement continued, “that sections of the report, which deal with matters without taking into account Egypt’s culture, religion and social values, will incite Egyptian public opinion.

“The report reflects a determination to impose foreign principles on Egyptian society, encompassing matters such as the rights of homosexuals, abolishing the death penalty and allowing blasphemy under the guise of freedom of speech.”

Some local NGOs and rights activists joined in the criticism. Said Abdel-Hafez, head of the Dialogue Forum for Development and Human Rights, condemned the report. Muslim Brotherhood members and the NGOs affiliated with the Brotherhood were a major source of information used by the European parliament, he said.

Hafez Abu Seada, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, also questioned the report’s sources of information. “It is telling that the report contains the same number of detainees that the Brotherhood falsely claims,” Seada said.

There are no official statistics on the number of detainees since July 2013. Wikithawra, an independent website that has documented detentions since the 25 January Revolution, estimates 41,000 people have been arrested over the last year, and 53 detainees killed in custody since Morsi’s removal. The Associated Press issued a report in May 2014 claiming 16,000 people had been arrested in the previous eight months, describing the detentions as “Egypt’s biggest round-up” in two decades.

Egyptian authorities deny there are any political prisoners in Egypt. All detainees, say government officials, face criminal charges.

National Council for Human Rights member George Ishak told Al-Ahram Weekly that there are no political detainees in Egypt and “all those arrested are being prosecuted according to the law.”

Ahmed Haggag, chairman of the International Relations Committee of the National Council for Human Rights, argues, “We should not pay much attention to such reports. The European Parliament has a history of supporting radical Islamic organisations. The timing of the report’s publication is also suspect. It comes weeks before parliamentary elections and constitutes an unacceptable interference in Egyptian affairs.”

Seada, who was part of a human rights delegation that visited the European Parliament days before the report’s release, insists that the European Parliament’s findings “do not represent the foreign policy of European countries.”

Gamal Eid, head of the Arabic Network for Human Rights, says the furore with which the report has been greeted belies the truth. “The report presents an accurate portrayal of the situation in Egypt and everybody knows that,” Eid told the Weekly.

“Domestic reactions towards such reports haven’t changed since the days of Mubarak. Those denouncing the report don’t care about public opinion, let alone the truth. Their only interest is to please the president. Abu Seada has happily joined a group whose only role is to polish the regime’s image.”

The figure of 40,000 detainees, says Eid, probably underestimates the total. “We estimate that the number of current detainees has reached 42,000, of which 30 and 40 per cent are provisionally detained. But simply to state accurate figures leaves you open to the charge of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Eid also points out that 18 journalists are currently behind bars, the highest number in 35 years.

The European Union has announced that it will not send a delegation to monitor Egypt’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for March. It says monitoring polls in Egypt, where last year’s presidential election fell short of international standards, could undermine the EU’s credibility.

“The decision not to send a full observation mission to monitor the parliamentary election doesn’t matter,” insists Ishak. “The door remains open for any group that wants to observe the poll. We do nothing wrong and have nothing to hide.”

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