UN evaluates Egypts human rights performance
President Mubarak’s government was criticized by the UPR panel for a number of draconian policies, including the prevalence of torture, discrimination, limited freedom of expression, and the continued exploitation of the emergency law to silence political dissent. French Ambassador to the UN Jean-Baptiste Mattei, echoing similar statements from British, German, and U.S. delegations, called upon Egypt to end its nearly 30-year old “state of emergency” that continues to have a “negative impact on human rights” throughout the country.
Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch agrees with this sentiment, emphasizing the urgency of dismantling the emergency law prior to Egypt’s parliamentary elections later this year. As part of its demand for judicial reforms, HRW wants the Human Rights Council to push Egypt to halt its systematic arrest and harassment of peaceful political activists, bloggers, and journalists. “Pledges to improve Egypt’s law are important,” Stork said, “but they will be meaningless unless accompanied by pledges to ensure that security services respect the rule of law and to provide accountability for those who don’t.”
Such pointed criticism prompted Egypt’s Minister of State for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Moufid Shehab to defend his government’s record against international and domestic forces that he believes “have been trying their best in recent years to tarnish the image of Egypt in the area of human rights.” But Hafez Abu Seada, president of the independent Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and a member of the government-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) delegation to Geneva, countered this attack by noting that the EOHR has “urged Shehab many times to enter into a direct dialogue with us about human rights in Egypt.”
The recently revamped NCHR will soon meet to discuss the UPR and formulate an agenda for the months ahead.