On the 5th of September, Human Rights Watch (HRW) described a ‘torture epidemic’ in Egypt´s prisons, documenting severe beatings, electric shocks, stress positions and rape. The human rights situation has been deteriorating steadily in Egypt, despite hope for improvement after the Egypt’s youth rose up for a more just and free society.
Parliamentary resolutions blocked
The active blocking by the two main groups in the European Parliament of any resolution or debate, including this week's plenary, has become a pattern each month since January 2015. Europe´s silence is unacceptable.
Deteriorating human rights situation
Developments in Egypt warrant a critical Parliamentary position. Torture, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of human rights defenders and journalists - basically anyone perceived as somewhat critical of the government - are rife. Yes, the Parliament spoke out when Italian student Giulio Regeni was brutally murdered, but sadly his case is not the only one. On top of torture and extrajudicial killings, hundreds of local and international news websites are blocked including Mada Masr, one of the last independent media outlets in Sisi’s Egypt. HRW’s website has been added to this list last Friday.
In May, President Sisi signed into law a controversial NGO law that effectively prevents NGO´s from functioning, and further crushes Egypt’s civil society. At the end of June, the state of emergency - which increases powers of an already extensive and intrusive security apparatus - was extended for another three months.
Looking at press statements, the EU has certainly not forgotten about Egypt. On the 25th of July, High-Representative Mogherini and Neighbourhood Commissioner Hahn welcomed Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry to Brussels for an Association Council to conclude ‘Partnership Priorities’. In a press room in the middle of summer, Foreign Minister Shoukry actually managed to lecture the EU about human rights, while the High Representative chose to focus on such issues as migration management and security. The EU must not allow cooperation on countering terrorism or managing migration to mean silence on promoting and protecting Egyptian´s rights.
During the past six months, European Commissioners, leaders of EU member states including Angela Merkel, as well as an EPP delegation visited Egypt. Logically, such visits should have looked beyond security and migration and would have included engagements with Egyptian civil society. If they had, only one conclusion could have been taken back to Brussels: that Egypt’s government should not have been rewarded with a renewed EU partnership without ending the ongoing crackdown on Egyptian people.
It was in Egypt, on Tahrir Square that the world learned short-term security, migration and political interests, while trampling on people´s rights, are unsustainable. Let us not repeat the mistakes of the past. Instead, let us make sure the EU stands firmly for democracy and human rights and let’s look at the future: Egypt´s youth should be the ones we are seeking a ´partnership´ with.