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HRW: UNDP should avoid whitewashing Egypt’s human rights record

September 23, 2021 at 11:50 am

United Nations Development Programme administrator Achim Steiner in the Sudanese capital Khartoum during his visit to the country, on 29 January 2020. [ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images]

Human Rights Watch have slammed a press release issued by Egypt’s United Nations Development Programme office which heaps praise on the Egyptian president.

The statement says Egypt has progressed towards comprehensive reform and prioritised the economy.

UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner congratulated Egypt on maintaining positive economic growth amid the pandemic through implementing bold economic reforms.

UNDP Egypt said there had been an improvement in prison conditions and that Egypt has worked to strengthen accountability mechanisms.

Yet the number of prisoners committing suicide or attempting suicide has increased at an alarming rate as they become more and more unhappy with the conditions of their incarceration.

Just this month prominent Egyptian activist Alaa Abdelfattah sent a message through his lawyer that he is suicidal after spending two years in pretrial detention which has led to the deterioration of his mental health.

Few, if any, meaningful investigations have been carried out into allegations of torture made by detainees or their families or for wrongful imprisonment.

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The issue of the denial of medical care for political prisoners as a punitive measure is still widespread. Last weekend, Salama Barakat, 42, became the 34th political detainee to die in Egypt’s prisons in 2021 after he was denied medical attention.

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK has said that overcrowding, malnutrition, poor ventilation and lighting, pollution and lack of hygiene including insect infestations are what prisoners have to live in inside jail.

UNDP Egypt also comments positively on Law 149/2019 on NGOs, which controls their activities, oversight and funding.

Yet under the law domestic and foreign NGOs can be stopped from certain activities which they deem to be against the loosely defined terms, “national security”, “public order” and “public morals”.

The UNDP’s lavish praise of the Sisi government is all the more outrageous since rights groups have many times called on the UN and other international bodies to put pressure on the Egyptian government to save political prisoners from a protracted death.

HRW said that “the UNDP needs to reverse course and avoid whitewashing Egypt’s human rights record,” and that the “Sisi government will use this report to deflect questions about the country’s abysmal human rights situation.”

Sisi: Human rights system improving in Egypt