EU-Egypt counterterror forum bid ‘affront’ to human rights: HRW

Human Rights Watch urged the European Union to ‘seriously reconsider its move’ amid Egypt’s human rights record.

Abdel Fattal el-Sisi
HRW said Egypt has become 'a human rights black hole' since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rose to power [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]

Human Rights Watch has urged the European Union not to launch a proposed joint bid with Egypt to lead a global counterterrorism body, deploring the country’s nation’s treatment of critics.

On Sunday, Egypt’s foreign ministry said it intends to run on a joint ticket with the EU to lead the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), an organisation described by New York-based Human Rights Watch as “a multilateral platform with far-reaching influence on global counterterrorism policy”.

Citing a leaked Council of the EU-branded document that outlined a proposed joint bid, the rights watchdog urged the EU on Tuesday to “seriously reconsider its move”, due to “Egypt’s abhorrent record of human rights violations in the name of counterterrorism”.

In a statement, the group said Egypt has become “a human rights black hole” since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi rose to power in 2013.

HRW cited the Egyptian authorities’ targeting of civil society groups, journalists, rights defenders, politicians and lawyers among others in recent years.

Rights groups say Egypt is holding some 60,000 political prisoners, many in brutal conditions and overcrowded cells.

“The joint bid under consideration would go beyond the usual mere hypocrisy and dodgy backdoor deals: it would be an open affront to the peaceful Egyptian critics who have paid a high price for their efforts to secure human rights and a democratic future for their country, and whom the state has labelled as ‘terrorists’ for daring to do so,” the HRW statement said.

A picture taken during a guided tour organised by Egypt's State Information Service on February 11, 2020, shows an Egyptian policman standing guard at the Tora prison
There are some 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt according to rights groups [File: Khaled Desouki/AFP]

“Rather than shamefully considering a joint bid with Egypt overlooking its miserable rights record, the EU should start taking meaningful action to address it.”

The GCTF, made up of 30 member countries, seeks “to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries’ civilian capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats,” according to its website, and has cooperated closely with the UN.

Egypt has, since February 2018, been conducting a nationwide operation against armed fighters, mainly focused on North Sinai and the country’s Western Desert.

More than 1,000 suspected armed fighters and dozens of security personnel have been killed in the Sinai, according to official figures.

No independently sourced death toll is available as North Sinai is off-limits to journalists.

The North African country has been selected to host the next climate summit, the COP27, which is due to take place in Sharm el-Sheikh later this year.

HRW contended in November that the move “rewards the repressive rule of” el-Sisi.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies