Egypt’s United Nations Human Rights Council envoy denounced several European countries’ human rights situations during a Wednesday council meeting, following comments made by the European Union, United States and Switzerland that were critical of Egypt’s own rights record.
In response to the well documented criticism of Egypt’s rights violations, the country’s UN Human Rights Council envoy Amr Ramadan defended the Egyptian government’s relationship with the country’s civil society, saying the state respects organizations that comply with Egyptian laws and adding that only a fraction accept foreign funding sources and “resort to foreign countries to cover up their violations of the law.”
The Egyptian diplomat, who is quoted in the official Middle East News Agency (MENA), then expressed concern over the human rights violations committed in European countries, citing laws that restrict freedoms in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Ramadan highlighted in particular the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act and what he called their transgressions in Ireland, in addition to the state of emergency in France which has been in effect for over a year. Ramadan called on French authorities to put an end to house raids, estimating that French authorities have conducted 4,000 raids and placed 400 people under house arrest.
Ramadan also asserted that Europe has been plagued by a wave of “racism, extremism, hate speech, discrimination against foreigners and Muslims present in a number of EU countries.”
He called on Italian authorities to investigate the deaths of Egyptian nationals in Italy, including Mohamed Baher Sobhy, whose body was found in a railway station in Naples in May 2016, and Hany Hanafy, who died in an Italian prison in March. Ramadan also referenced the 11 men who have been reportedly killed in Italian prisons since the beginning of this year.
Ramadan also criticized what he called the Swedish government’s excessive use of violence, claims centered on extended pretrial detention periods and the use of internationally prohibited weapons, such as dum-dum bullets. He also cited the Dutch anti-terrorism law, which widens the scope of travel bans and enables intelligence officers to intercept communications, and the countries practice of holding inmates, some of whom he says are minors, in solitary confinement.
Egypt has faced intense scrutiny for its human rights record since the body of Italian researcher Giulio Regeni was found bearing signs of severe torture on the outskirts of Cairo in early 2016. Amid reports that Egyptian investigators have been uncooperative in their dealings with Italian officials, as well as the emergence of allegations implicating Egyptian security forces in Regeni’s death, the countries strained diplomatic relations have played out in view of the wider public.
Ramadan’s comments were widely lampooned on social media, as Egyptian social media users drew attention to the diplomat’s disregard for the Egyptian government’s human rights record.
This user shared news of the envoy’s comments, calling it a “black comedy.”
In 2016, members of 17 Egyptian human rights organizations addressed the UN Human Rights Council regarding the repressive environment of human rights in the country, releasing a joint-statement following the hearing.”
“We are gravely concerned by the unprecedented levels of repressive measures being used by the government against human rights organizations and defenders,” the statement asserted. “These measures form part of a larger effort by the government to shut down the public space and stifle civil society,”