Wednesday

14th Nov 2018

Opinion

EU deafeningly silent on Egypt abuses

  • The hopes of Tahrir Square have eavporated (Photo: Globovision)

On 25 January 2011, a popular uprising toppled Hosni Mubarak ending his 30-year dictatorship.

At the time, there was hope that the demands of millions of protesters would be heard and that a democratic state, in which individual and collective freedoms are respected would be born.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Four years on and those hopes have evaporated.

The so-called “revolution” has proved to be a continuation or even worsening of the former regime. The faces of the regime may have changed but the army still has total control of government. Any type of criticism or opposition almost always leads to imprisonment.

Thousands of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood are languishing in prison; hundreds of them have been sentenced to death after unfair trials.

The justice system has become the main tool of repression. It does not even spare youthful opponents, not even the ones who were in the front lines during the Tahir Square demonstrations in 2011.

Yara Sallam, Sanaa Seif, Alaa Abdelfattah and so many other human rights defenders, bloggers, journalists, pro-democracy activists have all been sentenced and are imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of speech and assembly.

Criticism is a costly exercise in Egypt today and there are no signs that the situation will improve.

Since president Abdelfattah Al-Sissi came to power in June 2014, each month of his presidency has produced its share of presidential decrees, draft laws and amendments to the laws designed to reinforce a legal arsenal that is already very repressive.

On the pretence of maintaining public order and fighting terrorism, (two fields where Egypt feels it is a leader, even on the regional stage), Egyptian authorities are gradually eroding fundamental freedoms and are seriously threatening the independent civil society.

For a certain while, independent human rights organisations have been subjected to an ultimatum to register under a very restrictive law on associations. These organisations have been struggling to prevent the adoption of an even more repressive draft law put forward by the government.

Should this law be adopted, the ranks of NGOs that would have to close down or leave the country because of threats would swell. Another ongoing threat for these NGOs is the government’s draft law on terrorist entities, which are defined as individuals, organisations, etc. that “endanger national unity” or “disturb public order”.

If adopted, this draft law, which orders punishment for these entities if they, “advocate the suspension of the law, by whatever means”, will constitute a serious potential threat for the civil society organisations lobbying against this arsenal of repressive laws.

Slander campaigns concocted with pro-government media aim to present pro-democracy activists and other human rights defenders as troublemakers that are harmful to the country or even, in some cases, as foreign agents, leaving them badly exposed.

Disapproval by the international community has been barely audible.

Speeches given by leaders, including European leaders, at the end of meetings with the highest Egyptian authorities, have not reflected the reality of the situation. These speeches, celebrating bilateral co-operation and bonds with the Egyptian partners, which at best included an appeal to strengthen democracy in Egypt, generated feelings of disgust.

This ”soft” approach to the authorities undoubtedly comes from Egypt's image as a bastion of anti-terrorism and the custodian of regional stability but also, for some parties, a picture of Egypt as a country that counters the threat of political Islam and thus should be seen as a protector of individual freedoms and women’s rights.

However, freedoms are not only trampled but equality has certainly not been won and violence against women is widespread.

The perpetrators of sexual and gender-specific violence still, more often than not, enjoy total impunity, even when law enforcement officers are involved. The increasing number of arrests, violent acts and intimidation against LGBT persons are also clear illustrations of a discriminatory regime.

The silence of the international community cannot continue. It is incumbent on states to condemn, in no uncertain terms, the grave violations committed by the Egyptian authorities.

It may not yet be too late to reverse the authoritarian tendencies of the regime and recognise the women and men who had the courage to face the bullets in Tahir Square in the name of freedom, against totalitarianism and for democracy.

Karim Lahidji is president of FIDH, a federation of human rights NGOs

Why is Egypt jailing my friends?

A new wave of arrests against youth activists who, five years ago, helped bring down Mubarak is a sign of Sisi's paranoia, and could prompt fresh unrest.

Stronger EU-Egypt ties must not disregard human rights

The EU’s apparent willingness to water down its stance on human rights in Egypt could seriously compromise its credibility and have far-reaching consequences for its relations with other countries in the region.

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

News in Brief

  1. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  2. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  3. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine exports
  4. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls
  5. Italy defies EU deadline on changing budget
  6. Report: FBI looking into Brexiteers Farage and Banks
  7. Italian journalist unions protest 5MS 'whores' jibe
  8. Czech PM's son alleges kidnap plot against his father

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  2. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  3. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  4. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  5. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  6. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure
  7. EU unable to fully trace €1bn spent on refugees in Turkey
  8. Romanian leaders trade jibes over upcoming EU presidency

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  3. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  5. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  9. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  10. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us