This week a special session held in Geneva reviewed human rights in Egypt for the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council.                            

The session started with a speech by the president of the Egyptian delegation Omar Marwan, Minister of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He presented the procedures taken by Egypt to improve human rights during the last five years. He emphasised the full commitment of Cairo to meet the recommendations received during its previous review in 2014 when Egypt received 300 recommendations and fully accepted 224 and partially accepted 23.

Egypt received a lot of tough criticism during the session by representatives of the participating states. The majority of the recommendations were focused on respecting the basic principles of human rights including stopping systematic torture, holding persons responsible for torture accountable, and preventing impunity for the crimes of extrajudicial killing and torture. 

The representative of the US asked Egypt to lift the travel ban for human rights activists and cancel the freezing of assets. France called on Egypt to put an end to the death penalty and ensure freedom of the press and demonstrations. It also asked Egypt to allow detainees to receive visitors. Germany’s representative expressed concerns over violations inside Egyptian prisons and to stop medical neglect in prisons and promote a free press.

Many representatives demanded respect for freedom of expression on the internet, asked for demonstrations to be legalised and for the blocking of websites to be lifted.

Jeremy Smith, Director of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies in Geneva, told Mada Masr: “The issues raised by many wide-ranging countries represented a powerful and universal reaction. It proves that the world community is paying attention and knows very well that there is a crisis in human rights in Egypt.” He emphasised that the official response about human rights was comical and ultimately unconvincing.

An official report about the session and recommendations by the participating states will be released next Friday.