Egyptian rights groups reject country’s candidacy in UN Human Rights Council

Several human rights groups here appealed to the United Nations on Monday not to accept Egypt’s candidacy for membership of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The 19 groups and organizations expressed their “surprise” that Egypt is applying for membership in the council that addresses human rights violations, according to a statement.

“The Egyptian government’s record is full of serious human rights violations that have been practiced widely for long years,” said the statement. It alleged that Egypt condones police torture, arbitrary detention, trying civilians before military tribunals, and the rigging of elections.

The 47-member council was created in March last year, and Egypt applied for membership last month. Elections are scheduled for Thursday. Only 14 of the 47 seats on the Geneva-based Council fall vacant this year.

Earlier this month, a report by two watchdog groups, U.N. Watch and Freedom House, said Angola, Belarus, Egypt and Qatar “are authoritarian regimes with negative U.N. voting records (on rights issues) and are not qualified to be Council members”.

The groups also criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council, which has no power beyond drawing international attention to rights issues, for failing to criticize egregious human rights violations since it replaced a discredited U.N. rights body last year.

Egypt has been ruling by emergency laws since 1981, and controversial constitutional amendments that passed in March were criticized by Egyptian opposition, local and international rights groups as well as U.S. for restricting freedoms.

The opposition has said the changes will prohibit judicial election supervision that they say is vital to preventing vote fraud. The amendments also allow for strong presidential security powers that rights groups fear will be abused.