Three human rights activists freed after a month in prison for ‘joining a terror group’ and ‘spreading false news’.
The European Parliament has passed a resolution urging member states to consider imposing targeted restrictions against Egypt for its crackdown on human rights activists.
The EU politicians stressed a “unified and resolute” response against Egypt’s actions to silence activists, while using “all tools at their disposal” to secure concrete progress in the country’s human rights record.
“Parliament deplores, once again and in the strongest possible terms, the continued and intensifying crackdown on fundamental rights and, among others, the persecution of human rights defenders, lawyers and civil society in Egypt,” read the resolution adopted on Friday.
The document – approved with 434 votes in favour, 49 against and 202 abstentions – also stressed the necessity of a “profound and comprehensive” review of the EU’s relations with Egypt, including a revision of the commission’s budget support operations.
I am glad to announce that, finally, the @europarl_EN has approved its resolution on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Egypt🇪🇬, in particular the case of the @EIPR, by an an overwhelming majority.
We'll keep on working! pic.twitter.com/RrbbmVwQgC
— Soraya Rodríguez (@sorayarr_) December 18, 2020
Egypt rejected the resolution later on Friday, accusing the EU Parliament of pursuing “politicised objectives and an unbalanced policy”.
“The resolution is also unacceptable because it includes many misguided statements about the situation of human rights in Egypt, not to mention that it is not in harmony with the Egyptian-European partnership,” read a statement by Egypt’s House of Representatives, cited by pro-government news website Ahram.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has come under international scrutiny for the country’s abuse of human rights defenders after three activists from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were imprisoned by security forces on charges of “joining a terror group” and “spreading false news”.
The EIPR members were arrested after meeting foreign diplomats on November 3.
As international pressure mounted, the three activists were released but their assets remain frozen, pending investigations.
The EU document has called for the release of a fourth EIPR staff member, Patrick Zaki, who is still in jail after being arrested in February on charges of disseminating subversive propaganda, among other accusations.
According to his lawyer, Zaki was interrogated for 17 hours by Egypt’s security forces before being beaten and tortured using electric shocks.
Egyptian authorities were also accused of having “constantly hindered progress in investigating and revealing the truth” over the case of murdered Italian student Giulio Regeni.
The 28-year-old’s body was found on the outskirts of the capital, Cairo, in 2016, bearing extensive signs of torture.
Last week, prosecutors in Rome concluded a four-year investigation and officially requested the trial of four members of Egypt’s National Security Agency for kidnapping and murdering Regeni.
The EU resolution also appeared to reprimand EU states for failing to prioritise human rights over economic interests, urging the bloc’s members to halt all exports of military equipment.
France and Italy enjoy solid economic ties with Egypt, a top arms buyer from both countries.
Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron handed el-Sisi the Legion of Honour, the highest French distinction.
At least five prominent Italians, among intellectuals and politicians, announced they were going to return their awards to France in a sign of protest.