Discussions with Egyptian officials were 'frank and constructive,' says EU human rights envoy

Ahram Online , Thursday 14 Apr 2022

The European Union (EU) special representative for human rights, Eamon Gilmore, expressed on Thursday his appreciation for the "frank and constructive" meetings with Egyptian officials regarding human rights issues.


"I appreciated the frank and constructive engagement I have had in Egypt over the past three days, including on the human rights situation in Europe and more broadly in the region," the EU representative said in a statement.

Gilmore concluded a three-day visit to Egypt on Wednesday, where he met a host of government officials, parliamentarians, and human rights advocates.

Gilmore welcomed the publication of Egypt’s National Human Rights Strategy 2021-2026, and discussed the plans for its effective implementation during his meetings with Egyptians officials, the statement said.

In September 2021, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi launched the National Strategy for Human Rights, a set of government commitments to improving socio-economic, cultural, and political rights in the country over the next five years.

The EU envoy highlighted the provisions of the strategy, which address, among many other issues, the treatment of prisoners and other detainees, drawing attention to reports that he said he has received "of concerns about the treatment of persons in detention."

"He raised individual cases," the statement noted.

The statement added that Gilmore also sought clarification about Egypt’s commitment “to review the most serious crimes punishable by the death penalty” and the legislation governing pre-trial detention.

The talks also tackled the application of the country’s NGO law and its bylaws, the statement said, adding that Gilmore received assurances that a high-profile case targeting a number of NGOs “had been closed and that related travel bans and asset freezes are being lifted.”

As per judicial rulings over the past two years, the charges against 75 NGOs, in the case known locally as the 2011 foreign funding case, have been dropped.

In 2020, Egypt ratified the articles of a new NGO law to regulate the work of tens of thousands of NGOs in Egypt. The previous version of the law was criticised for imposing strict restrictions on the work of these organisations in the country.

Gilmore will provide feedback on his visit to Josep Borrell, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, and the EU Member States, the statement added.

Gilmore also revealed his plans to follow-up on the visit through further engagement with Egyptian interlocutors, according to the statement.

Gilmore's visit included talks with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Social Solidarity Minister Nevine El-Qabbaj, Justice Minister Omar Marwan, and Assistant Interior Minister Hossam El- Kholy.

He also met Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the House of Representatives Tarek Radwan and Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Senate Mohamed Hiba.

The EU representative also engaged in talks with several bodies, including Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), the National Council for Women, the National Council for Disabilities, the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, civil society organisations, and human rights defenders.

Challenges, opportunities

In a separate statement, Moushira Khattab, the president of the NCHR, said Egypt's human rights file is facing many challenges, but also holds "promising" opportunities.

Khattab made the remarks while introducing a lecture by Gilmore to NCHR members, representatives of NGOs, and students from Egyptian universities.

Khattab assured that the European Union is "a strategic" partner that Egypt values in light of the EU’s "enthusiasm" in cooperating with the country in the area of human rights and social and economic development, said a statement by the NCHR, Egypt's top human rights body.

The NCHR president said the launching of the Egyptian Human Rights Strategy demonstrates "the sincere desire for change, and it is a golden opportunity that we ought to seize," adding that it will contribute "significantly" to enhancing civil and political rights.

In his lecture, Gilmore said that human dignity and equality are the essence of human rights, and they can be recognised by defining the basic standards for decent life, as per the NCHR's statement.

He also explained that no country in the world has "a sharply bright" human rights record, including EU countries, and that there are challenges facing human rights, but they can be overcome.

Human rights are inextricably associated with the goals of sustainable development, clarified Gilmore, stressing that "what we suffer is the gap between what we write and what is going on the ground."

He affirmed that there is a change in the human rights conditions in Egypt, with one of its indicators being the national strategy for human rights, especially the guarantees of fair trial.

Gilmore called for moving forward in improving the human rights record.

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