'State Department report on ‎human rights in Egypt reflects ‎Obama's negative view,' says foreign ministry

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 27 Mar 2017

Egypt's deputy foreign minister for human rights said FM Shoukry would seize Sisi's visit to Washington next ‎week to respond in detail to the report

File photo of Egyptian parliament (Reuters)

In a meeting of the Egyptian parliament's ‎human rights committee, Deputy Foreign ‎Minister for Human Rights Laila Bahaaeddin ‎accused the Obama administration of ‎painting a "bleak view" of the ‎human rights situation in Egypt.

"The most recent ‎report issued by the US State ‎Department on human rights in Egypt ‎reflected the view of the former Obama ‎administration which had always sought to ‎tarnish the image of Egypt in any way," ‎said Bahaaeddin, adding that "this report ‎was issued in a secret way and without the ‎media taking note of it."‎

The ‎foreign ministry said it decided to give a private ‎response to the report. 

"We gave orders to ‎Egypt's ambassador in the US to respond ‎to this negative report in an official way and ‎without much fuss in media ‎circles," said Bahaaeddin.‎

The report, mandated annually by congress and put together by staff in US embassies, was released earlier this month, documenting human rights conditions in nearly 200 countries and territories. 

This year's report was largely compiled under President Barack Obama's administration.The report said Egypt's "excessive use of force included unlawful killings and torture."

The foreign ministry responded at the time in an official statement, saying the report was not based on any "legal frameworks," and that "human rights conditions in Egypt are held to clear constitutional obligations and are being monitored by national Egyptian organisations, both governmental and independent."

On President Abdel-Fattah ‎El-Sisi's visit to Washington next week to ‎meet with new US president Donald ‎Trump, Bahaaeddin said "as we see, Trump is different from ‎Obama and has said he wants closer ‎relations with Egypt." 

"As we want to open a new page ‎with this administration, we decided ‎not to make a lot of fuss in the media on a ‎negative report which was issued by the ‎outgoing administration of Obama,"‎ she added.

Bahaaeddin said however that Foreign Minister ‎Sameh Shoukry, who will be part of El-‎Sisi's official visit, ‎will give a detailed response to the report. 

"[He] will be ready to respond to ‎any accusations in this respect in a ‎diplomatic and wise way," said ‎Bahaaeddin, adding that "we want ‎to give the new administration a chance to ‎change this negative view of Egypt."‎

Bahaaeddin's words, however, were seen as highly insufficient by most MPs. Alaa Abed, head ‎of parliament's human rights committee, ‎said "the US State Department's negative ‎report about the situation of human rights ‎in Egypt reflected the political view of ‎Barack Obama who was supportive of ‎political Islam movements, especially the ‎Muslim Brotherhood."

"The report also ‎reflected the lies which were disseminated ‎by the Brotherhood and radical liberal ‎media in America, especially in the area of ‎street protests, sectarian tension and what ‎they call hundreds of political prisoners," ‎said Abed.‎

The report cited the most significant human rights concerns in Egypt as "excessive use of force by security forces, deficiencies in due process, and suppression of civil liberties."

Abed slammed the foreign ministry for ‎what he called "its very brief and ‎incomplete" response to the US State ‎Department's report. 

"I am afraid that this ‎report might be exploited by Trump's ‎political foes and the US mainstream ‎media which are supportive of political ‎Islam and the Brotherhood in a bid to ‎disrupt president Sisi's first state visit to ‎Washington," said Abed, adding that "I had ‎high hopes that the foreign ministry's ‎response would be strong, comprehensive ‎and corroborated with documents, but all of ‎my hopes were dashed."‎

Abed said the foreign ministry should send ‎parliament a detailed response to the state department's report, or else he would submit a complaint against Soukry, accusing him of ‎negligence.‎

Abed said the US State Department's ‎reports on human rights in general reflect ‎‎"a radical liberal viewpoint."

"This viewpoint ‎only leads to chaos and disruption ‎because it ignores national security ‎considerations in favour of focusing on ‎controversial issues such as street ‎protests and religious freedoms. Not to ‎mention that the State Department reports ‎are always based on information from local ‎human rights organisations which receive ‎money from America," said Abed.‎

The report said that due process problems in Egypt included "the excessive use of preventive custody and pre-trial detention, the use of military courts to try civilians," trials without evidence and arrests without warrants.

Civil liberties violations included societal and government restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly, the report said.

Nabil Bolous, a Coptic MP, ‎asked the foreign ministry to take the ‎matter as a national security issue, complaining that the report is rife with lies, particularly in the area on sectarian tension. 

"While ‎the ministry of defence is responsible for ‎defending the country's borders, the ‎foreign ministry's job is to safeguard ‎Egypt's national security and international ‎image against malicious attacks," said ‎Bolous.‎

"I am a ‎Coptic Christian who has never felt that ‎there is a sectarian problem in Egypt or ‎that Christians feel that they are being ‎treated as a minority as the report alleges," Bolous said, ‎adding that "by contrast we see ‎that it is America which has been rife with ‎sectarian tension, racial discrimination ‎incidents and police brutality throughout ‎the year 2016."‎

The MP said he wanted the foreign ministry to ‎send the world a strong message that ‎Egypt is safe and secure and that it is a ‎land of peace. "Unfortunately the foreign ‎ministry is not doing enough, leaving Egypt ‎vulnerable to malicious attacks in the ‎Anglo-American media and to radical ‎liberal human rights organisations and ‎politicians in the United States." ‎

In response, Bahaaeddin insisted that the ‎foreign ministry is doing its job. 

"All we want now is to make sure ‎that President El-Sisi concludes a ‎successful visit to the US. [we don't want to] cause any kind of trouble with anyone in ‎Washington at that time," she said.‎ 

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