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HRW urges UN to condemn 'dramatic reversal' of Egypt's human rights record

UN Human Rights Council is scheduled to review Egypt's human rights record in Geneva on Wednesday
Demonstrators with Egyptian Americans for Democracy and Human Rights held in August to mark the one-year anniversary of the Rabaa Massacre in Cairo (AFP)

Ahead of a UN examination of Egypt's human rights record scheduled this week, Human Rights Watch has called on the agency to condemn the "most dramatic reversal of human rights" in the country's history under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

"Washington, London, Paris and other capitals have failed to confront Egypt's dramatic reversal of human rights," said Philippe Dam, acting Geneva office director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement released on Tuesday. "They should make clear that silencing independent groups will hurt Egypt's relations with its allies." 

On Wednesday, UN member state representatives, human rights groups, and Egyptian officials are scheduled to gather in Geneva to discuss the country's human rights record as part of what is called a Universal Periodic Review. It is the first such review to be conducted since Egypt's 2011 uprisings.

In particular, HRW urged the US and other allies to condemn "imminent threats to shut down the country's most prominent nongovermental organisations". The Egyptian government has set a 10 November deadline for all NGOs to register under what HRW called a "highly restrictive" 2002 law, or face criminal charges. 

The NGO also criticised the UN Human Rights Council, as well as many Western countries and delegations, for failing to send a signal to the Egyptian leaders that human rights are a priority, instead "indulging the al-Sisi administration's wish to return to business as usual," the statement said.

On the table for examination on Wednesday will be a report compiled by Egypt’s foreign ministry regarding progress made on human rights issues including the country’s continued use of the death penalty, allegations of police torture, questions about freedom of religion and belief and sexual harassment.

Egypt’s foreign ministry said the review would mark the beginning of “intensive preparation” to show “full commitment to and respect of international conventions and fundamental rights and freedoms.”

The foreign ministry also said their report contains “images that illustrate acts of violence and terrorism carried out by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt”.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), both dissolved and banned by the Egyptian authorities, have also submitted a report for the UN review.

The Brotherhood’s legal team, Irvine Thanvi Natas solicitors, said: “The UN has a historic opportunity to hold the Egyptian military regime to account for the crimes committed since the coup”.

The Brotherhood report is said to “expose the atrocious reality of the military dictatorship ruling Egypt”, which includes “a detailed review of the human rights record of Egypt under president Morsi and appraises the record of the military regime”.

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