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EU criticised for ‘watering down’ criticism of Egypt at council meeting

June 21, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Brussels, Belgium on February 16, 2022 [EU Council/Anadolu Agency]

The EU has been called out for watering down criticism of their ally Egypt following an EU-Egypt Association Council meeting last week.

Ahead of the meeting a group of civil society organisations called on EU member states to use the meeting as an opportunity to raise concerns over serious human rights violations in Egypt and crimes against international law perpetuated by Egyptian authorities.

The organisations suggested several concrete measures which could be put in place by Egypt before the EU presses ahead with cooperation.

The benchmarks put forward by NGOs included enacting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty ahead of abolishing it, ending the censorship of news and human rights websites, and cooperating with the Italian authorities in the prosecution for the murder of Giulio Regeni.

READ: Concerns for human rights as EU promises Egypt $84m in migration deal

However, several aspects of the meeting detailed in the EU’s position for the 9th EU-Egypt Association Council suggest they have not listened to the NGOs.

Yesterday, MEMO reported how a new $84 million migration deal between the Egypt and the EU has thrown up severe human rights concerns, particularly as the money will be for Egypt to buy maritime border surveillance equipment.

Egypt has a history of pursuing government dissidents using spyware and tracking devices and of deporting refugees back to their home country, including Eritrea, despite being aware of rights abuses they face back home.

EU advocate at Human Rights Watch Claudio Francavilla has criticised the EU’s position for the 9th EU-Egypt Association Council, including for welcoming Cairo’s National Human Rights Strategy.

Since it was first announced the strategy has been widely criticised as being for public, international consumption rather than about real change on the ground.

“The EU has welcomed the publication of the first-ever National Human Rights Strategy as a manifestation of Egypt’s commitment at the highest level to meaningfully address human rights issues in line with Egypt’s constitution and international commitments,” said the paper.

In the document the EU also praises the fact that Egypt co-leads the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF):

“The EU is committed to working with Egypt and GCTF Members in order to implement a comprehensive and global approach that addresses the root causes of terrorism, with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, in order to successfully counter and prevent radicalisation and foster socio-economic development.”

Yet Egypt has committed countless abuses in the name of counterterror, including adding thousands of citizens to national terror lists and not even allowing them to defend themselves in court and charging government critics with “financing” or “belonging to terror groups.”