Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi asked European states to not “impose their views" on the country, in a response to criticism of recent executions in the country, saying Arab states’ priorities were to preserve themselves from “collapse.”
In a press conference following the closing session of an EU-Arab League summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Sisi urged European countries to “respect the country's morals and humanity.”
"You speak about death sentences…we appreciate this, but we urge you to not impose anything on us. When a person is killed due to a terrorist act, their families ask us to get their children's rights, and this is the culture of our region. This is a right which is achieved through law…You want to teach us? You won't teach us our humanity," El-Sisi said.
The president's statements followed a question from a German journalist on how Egypt responded to the EU’s dissatisfaction over its human rights record.
Several human rights groups, as well as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), have slammed Egypt for the execution of a total of 15 people this month after they were convicted of the 2015 killing of the country's top prosecutor.
They were also convicted of the murder of a judge’s son in 2014 and of a police officer in the aftermath of the dispersal of the Rabaa El-Adawiya sit-in in 2013.
Egypt has denounced the criticism of the trials of those executed as unfair, rejecting “any infringement upon the Egyptian judiciary.”
"Let me tell the reporter, that the priority for you as European states is to achieve welfare; our priority is to preserve our countries and protect them from fall, destruction, and collapse," El-Sisi said.
"Please, when you respond to events in our region, look at them comprehensively. This does not mean an override of human rights," he said, citing the “big challenges” facing Egypt.
The president's comments came after the Arab League’s Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit asked to respond on behalf of El-Sisi to the reporter; the Arab League head said that no European state had expressed its discontent regarding human rights in Egypt during the meetings at the summit.
"What took place represents the philosophy and concepts of human rights…while being spread on both the European and Arab sides. No one has touched on any country's human rights practices," Aboul Gheit said.
In a January visit to Egypt French President Emmanuel Macron also brought up the topic.
"You should not look at us from a European perspective… just like we do not look at you from our Egyptian perspective… because that would not be fair," El-Sisi said during a press conference with Macron in January.