MPs attacked the decision by US Congress members Tom Malinowski and Don Beyer to form an Egyptian Human Rights Caucus to mark the 10th anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on 25 January.
Parliament Speaker Mohamed Abul-Enein said forming the bloc was an attempt to intervene in Egypt’s domestic affairs, and that US representatives should stop weaponising human rights to do so.
Abul-Enein noted that the bloc had been formed at a time when the Egyptian state is working hard to improve public freedoms and civil rights.
“We should send a message to Congress that Egypt respects human rights and that the state is doing its best to improve the economic and social conditions of its citizens. Human rights is not just a matter of freedom of expression but concerns meeting people’s needs in terms of food security and housing, and improving the quality of life,” said Abul-Enein.
Ashraf Rashad, leader of the majority Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland) Party, denounced the way some foreign parliaments, particularly the US Congress and the European Parliament, use human rights as a pretext to intervene in Egypt’s domestic affairs.
“It is unacceptable to use loaded terms like political detention and forced disappearance as an excuse to intervene in domestic matters,” said Rashad.
He added that “Congress should better take care of America’s own affairs… rather than discussing the affairs of other countries.”
According to Rashad, “the term political detainees is inaccurate because the Egyptian judicial system has deep roots and is empowered to follow the correct legal procedures to achieve justice and defendants have the right to defend themselves at every stage of an investigation.”
Head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee Tarek Radwan singled out US Congressman Tom Malinowski, accusing him of using the caucus to support Muslim Brotherhood activists and Islamist movements.
“Malinowski has recently announced the formation of the so-called Egyptian Human Rights Caucus and wants to use this forum to allow members of the Muslim Brotherhood to hold hearing sessions and conferences inside Congress. This represents a violation of the UN Charter which states that no country has the right to directly or indirectly interfere into the internal and external affairs of any other country,” said Radwan.
Malinowski was lending himself to an initiative that will allow the Muslim Brotherhood to deceive American policymakers and public opinion by introducing its members and officials as political activists defending human and civilian rights. “It is a dangerous game,” said Radwan, “because when you open the door of Congress to groups that espouse Islamist Jihadist, you will only hurt American national security.
“US politicians need to draw lessons from the wars in Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Libya where the US supported Islamist jihadists and opened dialogue with political Islamist movements. The result caused great harm to the US and Western countries in the terms of the proliferation of terrorist movements,” said Radwan.
“It is playing with fire to forge contacts with such movements because this is the way you help them infiltrate American society and threaten American national security. And the same Islamist movements endanger the stability and security of Egypt and other Arab countries which is why the Muslim Brotherhood was designated a terrorist organisation.”
In Radwan’s words: “The US and the West must recognise that the Muslim Brotherhood was the progenitor of Islamist terrorist organisations such as Hasm, the Army of Islam, Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, all of them designated terrorist organisations by the United States and most Western countries.”
Egypt-US relations were a central issue in the statement delivered by Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri to MPs on 26 January.
“Egypt will never allow outside interference in its affairs and fully respects human rights,” said Shoukri. He added that Egypt-US relations stand on solid foundations, are not determined by partisan concerns and Cairo remains keen on reinforcing relations with Washington across the economic, commercial, and military fields.
He underlined that the two countries have a mutual interest in fighting terrorism and that trade between Egypt and the US increased by 76 per cent between 2016 and 2019.
“America ranks third in terms of foreign investments in Egypt. US investments in Egypt have reached $22 billion, placing Egypt as the top African recipient of US investment,” said Shoukri.
US Congress member Don Beyer said “Egypt remains a key ally, but its human rights record — including the years-long detention of my constituent Aya Hijazi — remains a major concern, and we must demand better of our closest allies.”
Malinowski said “the Egyptian Human Rights Caucus will reflect and help shape the growing consensus in Congress that we need to rebalance our relationship with this important country.”
Malinowski and Beyer previously served in the US State Department. Malinowski, a Democrat representing New Jersey, was former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour under the Barack Obama administration.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 February , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly