US expresses concern on freedoms of expression, assembly in Egypt

Ahram Online, Saturday 8 Mar 2014

Washington continues to raise flags about Egypt's present human rights climate, echoing a joint statement of 27 countries issued Friday in Geneva

US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki (Photo: AP)

"The United States remains concerned about the climate for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association in Egypt," the US State Department spokesperson said Friday following a UN statement criticising rights restrictions in Egypt.

The UN Human Rights Council issued a joint statement Friday with 27 other countries expressing concern on what they described as restrictions of "rights to peaceful assembly, expression and association, and about the disproportionate use of lethal force by security forces against demonstrators which resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries."

Jen Psaki was asked during the State Department's daily press briefings if there is any indication that the Egyptian government is "actually listening [to such statements." The spokeswoman said the matter is hard to evaluate, but "speaking out when we see human rights abuses or where we see brutality is something that, as the United States Government, we feel is incredibly important."

Psaki also said the US has taken steps in terms of freezing certain assistance to Egypt, referring to the suspension of part of the US's military aid to Egypt in July following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

She added that the "international community clearly condemns the reprehensible terrorist attacks that have taken place in Egypt," in reference to attacks targeting police and army personnel in Egypt.

The UN joint statement on Egypt mirrors the US's annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Egypt for 2013, released late February. The report condemned the "removal of an elected civilian government," in reference to 3 July 2013, when Morsi was deposed following mass protests 30 June.

In response to the report, Egypt's foreign ministry spokesman, Badr Abdel-Ati, denounced what he described as the US "appointing itself a lawyer and an advocate for human rights issues" in the world without a "legitimate base."

Abdel-Ati further accused the US of double standards as its annual human rights practices reports highlight violations in Egypt and the world, while the US is responsible for its own violations, such as phone tapping and the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

The Egyptian government is yet to comment on the UN joint statement.

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