The resolution was adopted even though Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative and Vice President, praised the progress Egypt had achieved in the area of human rights in recent months, citing the National Strategy on Human Rights and the Egyptian government’s effective plans to implement this strategy on the ground.
He had held talks on human rights with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri in June, and he welcomed the personal commitment of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to progress in this area. Borrell also took positive note of the reinstatement of the Presidential Pardon Committee and the subsequent release of prisoners.
In fact, Egypt has been taking serious steps towards actual implementation of its National Strategy on Human Rights. The first progress report about the one-year implementation of this strategy will be released by the Permanent National Committee on Human Rights very soon.
When the National Strategy on Human Rights was adopted a year ago, it was stated emphatically that it would be facing various challenges. The real test is how well the strategy achieves its objectives by 2026.
On the other hand, the European Parliament’s resolution has completely ignored President Al-Sisi’s call for a national dialogue over the country’s priorities in the next stage. Borrel himself referred to this dialogue in a statement before the EP on 23 November.
Borrell said, “The EU will advance and strengthen engagement with our Egyptian partners and look forward to continuing their work on the agenda of human rights, also including the upcoming national dialogue, which will take place in December in the form of the subcommittee on human rights. Opposition and loyalist forces will take part in this dialogue and the new human rights strategy will top the agenda.”
So one wonders again why the EP turned a blind eye to all those positive developments. This is renewed evidence that its resolution on Egypt is politicised and malicious.
In his statement, Borrell also indicated that the EU delegation in Cairo engages with civil society and human rights defenders, supports the work of civil society organisations, and reaches out to government officials. At the same time, he said the EU engages in Brussels with Egyptian human rights activists, Egyptian and international NGOs, as well as the Egyptian Mission to the EU.
In fact, there is an ongoing dialogue between Cairo and Brussels exchanging views on human rights and other issues of mutual concern. A meeting of the subcommittee on human rights and political affairs between the EU and Egypt will be held on 8 December.
All of these are encouraging signs regarding the future of bilateral relations between Egypt and the European Union, for there is no doubt that the EU countries view Egypt as a major cornerstone of stability and security in the Middle East and the Mediterranean region.
In this light the arrogant and aggressive nature of the resolution, and its lack of any objective view of the human rights situation in Egypt, is deeply disappointing. In fact, it reconfirms the EP’s insistence on a biased approach to Egypt, using disinformation to deliver a judgment regarding developments without being aware of the political situation as a whole.
The resolution alleged that Egypt is still under emergency law, and that children in Egypt face the death penalty, and predictably focused on the case of Egyptian-British blogger Alaa Abdel-Fattah. But it is no secret that the state of emergency in Egypt was lifted in October 2021 and has not been in place since. Children cannot by law face the death penalty, life in prison or hard labour.
As for Alaa Abdel-Fattah, the authorities have repeatedly pointed out that he is not a political detainee but a prisoner serving five years for criminal charges following a fair trial in which he was granted every right and guarantee to defend himself.
In the same context, nobody can ignore the fact that more than 1,200 prisoners have been pardoned and released since April when President Al-Sisi declared they would be reintegrated into society. These positive developments received applause from EU officials, but were deliberately ignored by the EP.
The EP resolution thus clearly stands on flimsy ground as it lacks any concrete evidence that can substantiate its allegations about human rights conditions in Egypt.
On the other hand, it is deplorable that most of the disinformation it contains can be traced to the banned Muslim Brotherhood or activists with radical agendas. This is not the first time the EP has adopted misleading resolutions about the human rights situation in Egypt. In August 2013, when Egyptians revolted against the Muslim Brotherhood regime and stood up to its attempt to turn the country into a religious fascist autocracy, another such resolution was adopted.
It should need no explanation that, within the EU countries themselves, human rights violations of human rights among EU countries such as racism against immigrants, minorities and refugees, growing Islamophobia and hate speech as well as street violence and violence against women and children are all on the rise.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 1 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.