Human Rights Watch criticises the EU for considering Egypt to lead global anti-terror body

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Human Rights Watch has said that the European Union, according to a recently leaked document, may be on the verge of submitting a joint file with Egypt to co-lead the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum, a multilateral platform with broad influence on global counter-terrorism policy.

Given Egypt’s infamous record of human rights abuses in the name of combating terrorism, the European Union should seriously reconsider its actions, said the organisation. It issued a statement saying that since President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi came to power in 2013, Egypt has become a human rights hell as security forces have severely repressed civil society and committed horrific abuses against dozens of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, protesters, opposition politicians and businessmen, and families of activists, often calling them “terrorists.”

The statement added that tens of thousands of real or supposed members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been imprisoned since the government banned the group as a “terrorist” group in 2013. Thousands of members have been sentenced to long prison terms after grossly unfair mass trials before military courts. Other alleged opponents were also not given any trial, as security forces executed them in operations poorly falsified as crossfire. In addition, the Egyptian army’s campaign in North Sinai is riddled with counter-terrorism violations, some of which are serious, systematic, and widespread, and may amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity, the organisation said.

It noted that the European Union has consistently, but timidly, raised its concerns about Egypt’s human rights violations in its statements at the United Nations, adding that its knowledge of the country’s poor human rights record did not prevent it from providing unconditional military, political, and economic support for the Egyptian government.

A joint candidacy to lead the global forum will exceed the usual limits of hypocrisy and suspicious secret deals, according to the statement. It is a clear insult to the peaceful Egyptian critics who paid a heavy price for their efforts to secure human rights and a democratic future for their country, and whom the state described as “terrorists” for daring to do so.

The organisation concluded the statement by emphasising that instead of shamefully submitting a joint candidacy with Egypt that ignores its miserable human rights record, the European Union should begin to take targeted measures to address this record, as Human Rights Watch and other non-governmental organisations, and the European Parliament, have called for. Also, with a new session of the UN Human Rights Council approaching, intensifying efforts to establish a long-awaited human rights monitoring and reporting mechanism in Egypt would be a good start.