Africa and the EU

Egypt: Speech on behalf of HR/VP Borrell in the EP plenary on the deteriorating situation of human rights in Egypt, in particular the case of the activists of the EIPR

Brussels, 17/12/2020 - 15:23, UNIQUE ID: 201217_12

Delivered by Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality

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Mr President, Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

We pay close attention to human rights developments in Egypt and address them in various ways. Arrests and prosecution of civil society organisations and people expressing themselves on social media remain a cause for concern.

In September 2020 at the 45th United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, the EU raised various human rights issues in Egypt under Item 4, including a call to release human rights defenders.

The recent arrests of the director and staff members of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the EIPR, underlined once more the worrying situation in this regard.

We consider EIPR to provide a critical service to the Egyptian people. We expressed our concern in a Statement of the Spokesperson of the European External Action Service on the 21st of November.

We welcome as a first step the release of the three EIPR staff members on the 3rd of December, while reiterating our call for the release of Mr George Patrick Zaki, an EIPR researcher, who remains in detention since February 2020.

We have also noted that the challenges mentioned take place against positive developments on social and economic rights, such as the protection of women amid the COVID pandemic as highlighted in the latest UNDP-UN Women report showing Egypt as the best performer in the region.

Further, on the 25th of November, the Egyptian government approved the implementing regulations of the 2019 NGO law, which is an improvement from previous legislation and gives more predictability to charity organisations.

The protection and promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law are guiding principles of our external action and policies. The new Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024, approved in November, reaffirms the EU's strong commitment to further advancing universal values for all.

These commitments also have a central place in the framework for our political engagement and cooperation with Egypt. This was also discussed during High Representative Borrell’s latest visit to Cairo on the 3rd of September of this year as well as the [visit of the] President of the European Council Michel in November. The EU Special Representative for Human Rights [Eamon] Gilmore is also in regular contact with relevant Egyptian counterparts.

The EU has a clear interest in Egypt's long term stability and security. This can only be achieved if human rights are fully implemented and upheld. This remains the guiding thought in our bilateral dialogue with Egypt within the framework of our partnership.

Thank you.

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