The European Union Delegation to Egypt

Human rights and democracy in the world: Egypt country report

Bruxelles, 16/05/2019 - 16:43, UNIQUE ID: 190516_23
Press releases

On 13 May 2019, the Council of the European Union adopted the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world for 2018. An overview of the human rights and democracy situation in Egypt is included.


1.  Overview  of  the  human  rights  and  democracy  situation: Progress  on  human  rights  and fundamental freedoms in Egypt remains slow while the country continues to face important  security, social and economic challenges. Positive developments included the announcement of the revision of the NGO law and the acquittal of 43 defendants under the foreign funding case.  Cash  transfer  programs  to  mitigate  effect  of  economic  reforms  on  weakest  strata  of society have been successful. Amendments to the Inheritance Law, which guarantee women the right to receive their inheritance, were a step forward in improving women's legal status. A  lot  remains  to  be  done  to  ensure  the  full  implementation  of  the  important  constitutional provisions on human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. The nationwide state of emergency declared in April 2017 has been renewed every three months since then. Over 470 news and media outlets remain blocked without court rulings. New cybercrime and media laws may further restrict freedom of expression on social media. Activists and human rights defenders  have  increasingly  been  tried  under  state  security  prosecution  and  put  into prolonged  pre-trial  detention.  Further  significant  challenges  include  increasing  pressure  on  the LGBTI community, continuing discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief, despite the  adoption  of  a  law  on  the  construction  and  licensing  of  churches,  the  increase  in  death  sentences,  including  by  military  courts  for  civilians,  and  executions,  and  reports  of  torture  enforced disappearances and poor detention conditions.

2.  EU action - key focus areas:

In  line  with  the  August  2013  Foreign  Affairs  Council  Conclusions,  support  to  civil  society  remained  a  priority  in  EU  bilateral  assistance  to  Egypt,  with a focus on women and youth. The adoption of the EU-Egypt Partnership Priorities 2017-2020  allowed  both  sides  to  reaffirm  their  shared  commitment  to  the  universal  values  of  democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights and to agree on strengthening their dialogue and cooperation on these issues as key elements for sustainable stability.

3.  EU  bilateral  political  engagements: 

Salient  human  rights  issues  were  raised  throughout  the   year   by   the   Head   of   Delegation   as   well   during   high-level   visits   by   MEPs   and   Commissioners.  During  the  visits,  meetings  were  arranged  with  human  rights  organisations  and human rights defenders (HRDs) to discuss the human rights situation in the country, and that  of  civil  society  in  particular.  The  EU Delegation  held  regular  dialogue  with  the  Human  rights and Social Affairs Division at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The   Egyptian   Assistant   Foreign   Minister   for   Human   Rights   met   with   the   EU  Special  Representative  for  Human  Rights  in  February  2018  in  Brussels  and  both  sides  confirmed  their willingness to enhance cooperation, especially in the area of international human rights law. The fifth meeting of the EU-Egypt Subcommittee on Political Matters, Human Rights and Democracy   took   place   in   Cairo   on   10-11   January.   The   Association   Committee   on   8 November,  and  the  8th  Meeting  of  the  EU-Egypt  Association  Council  on  20  December  allowed  for  a  frank  and  open  exchange  on  all  priority  areas,  including  human  rights  and  fundamental freedoms. In its position for the Association Council, the EU mentioned positive  developments  but  also  matters  of  concern  to  the  EU,  including  restrictions  on  civil  society  organisations (CSOs),  freedom  of  expression,  mass  trials  and  the  death  penalty.  The  HRVP  Spokesperson  issued  two  statements  in  2018  linked  to  the  human  rights  situation  and  the  death penalty (on 30 May and 11 September). Meetings of the EU Informal Group on Human Rights  were  held  on  a  monthly  basis,  in  which  human  rights  and  democracy  developments and  concerns  were  discussed.  Human rights defenders, representatives  of  civil  society,  journalists   and   other   relevant   interlocutors   were   invited   as   guest   speakers.   The   EU Delegation and EU Member States missions continued to monitor salient court cases from a human  rights  perspective.  The  European  Parliament  adopted  a  Resolution  on  executions  in  Egypt in February 2018 and one on the situation of HRDs in December 2018. 

4. EU financial engagement:

In 2018 the EU Delegation managed 35 projects worth EUR 45 million in  support  of  human  rights. The  projects  directly  contribute  to  the  promotion  and  protection  of  civil,  political,  social,  economic  and  cultural  rights.  The  activities  focus  on  the  fight  against  all  forms  of  discrimination  (gender-based,  religious  and  cultural)  as  well  as  female genital mutilation (FGM) and trafficking in human beings. They also aim at enhancing women's rights, children's rights, migrant's rights, persons with disabilities' rights, access to justice, access to culture, cultural diversity and local governance. Considering the increasing pressure  on  human  rights  defenders  and  civil  society,  the  EU  Delegation  has  been  in  close  contact  with  the  EU  Human  Rights  Defenders  rapid  response  mechanisms  and  referred  several  cases  to  the  European  Instrument  for  Democracy  and  Human  Rights  (EIDHR)  Emergency  Fund  and  the  European  Endowment  for  Democracy.  Under  the  EIDHR,  a  new  project  was  awarded  in  April  to  the  Dominican  Institute  for  Oriental  Studies  to  foster  Freedom of Religion or Belief and inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue.

5. Multilateral  context: 

Egypt  is  serving  a  three  year  term  (2017-2021)  in  the  UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Egypt has played an active role as a driving force of the Organisation of Islamic  Cooperation  (OIC)  and  is  a  dominant  player  in  the  African  Group.  In  2018  as  in  previous  years,  the  EU  raised  concerns  on  the  human  rights  situation  in  Egypt  in  its  statements at the HRC under item 4. Notably, it encouraged Egypt to improve the situation with  respect  to  civil  and  political  rights,  including  freedom  of  association,  assembly  and  expression   both   on   and   offline,   thereby   ensuring   space   for   civil   society   and   HRDs. Cooperation  increased  at  multilateral  level,  with  Egypt  sponsoring  the  resolution  on  the  Rights  of  the  Child  presented  by  the  EU  in  cooperation  with  the  Latin  American  and  Caribbean Group (GRULAC) at the 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). Egypt also presented a voluntary report on implementation of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations.

Link to 2018 EU annual report "Human rights and democracy in the world":

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