After the European Parliament decision, could human rights improve in Egypt?

28

European Parliament decisions regarding human rights violations in Egypt have sparked widespread interaction and debate between observers and those interested, amid disagreement over these decisions’ feasibility regarding the Egyptian human rights file.

Some politicians saw that these decisions represent an important turning point and a good step to pressure General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime to improve the conditions of detainees and persecuted opponents. Others believe that these European statements and decisions would not significantly change Egypt’s existing authoritarian situation, especially since these condemnations have been issued before, and al-Sisi’s regime continued carrying out violations.

Al-Sisi’s regime and its media met European decisions with a campaign of rejection and condemnation, as the Egyptian parliament described the statement issued by the European Parliament as politicised and unacceptable. The House of Representatives issued a statement in response to the European Union’s decision on human rights, describing it as including many inaccuracies contrary to the Egyptian reality. In its statement, the House of Representatives called on the European Parliament not to install itself as the guardian of Egypt and to refrain from politicising human rights issues to serve political or electoral purposes, according to the statement.

Accusations from the media in Egypt poured down on members of the European Parliament. Media figures close to al-Sisi’s regime described them as being financed by Qatar and Turkey. Security experts in Egypt claimed that the European Parliament draws its information on Egypt from Brotherhood organisations and human rights associations with political purposes.

Frequent criticism

The rabid media and political campaign in Egypt, following European Parliament decisions, was considered by observers as an indication that the situation has not changed and indicates the al-Sisi regime’s resistance to any pressures demanding improvement of human rights conditions. The European Union’s decisions come after repeated criticism of the al-Sisi regime by the European Union and America, without the criticism resulting in any tangible change.

Simultaneously, politicians saw that the recent decisions bear good news for the beginning of a change and improvement in the Egyptian human rights file, stressing that the coming days will reveal that improvement. On Friday December 18, the European Parliament voted by a majority in favour of a resolution, calling on European institutions to take serious steps to stop human rights violations in Egypt.

The European Parliament also called for the release of prisoners of conscience in Egyptian prisons, revealing the truth about killing the Italian researcher Giulio Regeni and his killers’ extradition. Parliament called for linking future aid to human rights in Egypt, expressing its condemnation of the member states’ failure to commit to preventing the export of any equipment or tools that might be used in repression. At the same time, the European Parliament affirmed that it must stand by the Egyptian people and not with the regime and called for an end to the increasing executions of dissidents in Egypt.

Pressures to stop violations

For her part, the head of the Human Rights Committee in the European Parliament, Marie Arena, said that the time has come to activate the sanctions mechanism against the Egyptian regime due to its continuous human rights violations. Arena added that the Egyptian people had been subjected to unprecedented repression in the country since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power. Concurrently, many representatives of the European Parliament tweeted in Arabic to denounce human rights violations in Egypt.

European representatives participated in a unified statement in which they demanded to put pressure on the Egyptian regime to stop the violations and release opponents and detainees in Egypt, most notably Patrick Zaki George. The statement mentioned above stressed the need for the European Union to urge the Egyptian authorities to fully cooperate with the Italian judicial authorities regarding the Regeni case. The statement warned the Egyptian authorities against taking any retaliatory measures against the witnesses or the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms and its lawyer.