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UN human rights chief criticised for praising 'positive steps' taken by Egypt

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet gestures at a press conference on December 9, 2020 in Geneva. - The UN human rights chief warned that the coronavirus crisis had "zeroed in on the fissures and fragilities in our societies," including a failure to respect basic rights. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet gestures at a press conference on December 9, 2020 in Geneva [FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN human rights chief has said she appreciates the "positive steps" taken by the Egyptian president "to advance human rights."

The quote was published in state-run Egypt Today and has drawn criticism from Mona Seif, the sister of Alaa Abdelfattah, the British-Egyptian blogger who has spent over 70 days on hunger strike. Mona has spoken out recently about how her brother has lost a lot of weight in detention and that a letter written to him last week by family members was not delivered.

Alaa is demanding a consular visit, which he is entitled to as a British citizen. He has been detained in Egypt since 2019.

Michelle Bachelet mentioned the first national human rights strategy as one of the positive steps taken by the Egyptian president to improve human rights in the country.

But critics say human rights violations continue on the ground despite the fact that the Egyptian government continues to say publicly it is committed to a human rights strategy and the national political dialogue.

READ: Egypt 'exacerbating' rights violation at Rafah Crossing to Gaza, says HRW

"The strategy is rooted in the denial of the depths of Egypt's human rights crisis while aiming to deceptively convey to the international community and donor states that political reform in Egypt is proceeding apace, thereby entrenching the tragic state of affairs and deflecting international criticism," said the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) last year.

At the end of May an Egyptian court sentenced 25 political opponents to long prison sentences, including the former presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh who received a 15-year sentence.

Shortly afterwards a court sentenced Al Jazeera journalist Taha Hussein to 15 years in prison in absentia for "spreading false news" because he interviewed Aboul Fotouh in 2018.

Egypt is the third-worst jailer of journalists worldwide and ranks 166th in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

Bachelet's comments in Egypt Today come as the UN rights chief says she won't seek a second term after her current one expires at the end of August for "personal reasons".

PARIS,FRANCE - OCTOBER 02: People take part in a demonstration to protest against China's policies towards Uyghur Turks on the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, in Paris, France on October 02, 2021. ( Yusuf Özcan - Anadolu Agency )

People take part in a demonstration to protest against China's policies towards Uyghur Turks on the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, in Paris, France on October 02, 2021. [Yusuf Özcan – Anadolu Agency]

Politicians and rights groups criticised Bachelet last month for not taking a tough enough stand on the persecution of Uyghurs in Xinjiang after she visited China. Human rights defenders are also putting pressure on Bachelet to publish a report on China's violations of Uyghurs and the situation in Xinjiang province.

China has detained more than one million Uyghurs in so-called "re-education camps" and subjects them to a series of abuses, including a shoot to kill policy for people attempting to escape.

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AfricaAsia & AmericasChinaEgyptInternational OrganisationsNewsUN
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