First, the European Parliament lied and claimed that the emergency law is still in force. This is surprising as it means the report was issued without careful investigation and research, and, as a result, lacks credibility. The emergency law is the prerogative of the Egyptian state alone, which decides whether or not to apply it based on threats to national security.
This blatant interference in Egypt’s internal affairs is a violation of the country’s sovereignty and national security. The Law of Emergency No. 162, enacted in 1958, regulates when a state of emergency can be imposed, including times of war, internal disturbances, disasters or the spread of an epidemic. It is only imposed in times of urgent need.
The law was invoked to impose a state of emergency during the 1967 war, which was renewed every three years until 1980. However, it was reinstated 18 months later following the assassination of President Sadat.
It was rescinded in 2012, briefly imposed again in 2013, and again imposed in 2017 following a pair of terror attacks. Most recently, the state of emergency ended in October 2021.
In each case, only the Egyptian state had the ability to decide whether or not to apply the emergency law.
Second, the European Parliament falsely alleged, without evidence, that the death penalty was being imposed on children in Egypt. The Egyptian state respects the law, the independence of the judiciary and the constitution, which states:
“No death sentence, life imprisonment or forced labour shall be imposed on the accused who has not exceeded the full eighteen years of age at the time of committing a crime.”
Next, the European Parliament’s claim regarding the case of Alaa Abdel-Fattah, is an unacceptable transgression and unjustified interference in Egyptian internal affairs without evidence or objective support. Egypt rejects the false information contained in the report. After being fairly tried, the punishment stipulated by law was imposed on Abdel-Fattah. In addition, he is being treated fairly as a prisoner as his family is allowed to visit him according to the times specified by law.
Moreover, the European Parliament's request that Egypt release a group of citizens who were allegedly arbitrarily arrested is contrary to the truth. Those detained are being held pending investigation and are awaiting a final say by the Egyptian judiciary. The judiciary is independent and the government cannot interfere with their affairs.
The strangest thing is that the report did not refer, even once, to the positive developments in Egypt, including the actions taken to respect human rights, not just words and slogans (as in some countries). Instead, the report was characterised by political suspicion and the use of human rights as a pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of the Egyptian state.
The report stands in contrast to a speech made on behalf of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell to members of the European Parliament, which was impartial, mentioning both the positives and negatives without interfering in state affairs. The speech made reference to Egypt’s National Strategy for Human Rights and the Presidential Pardon Committee, which has already led to the release of numerous prisoners. The speech also referred positively to the participation of young people and the issue of human rights at COP27.
The report neither addressed Egypt’s economic boom nor its national projects. Nor did it address the many presidential initiatives, which have achieved economic, social and health-related human rights, such as the right to housing.
Moreover, it did not address the first National Strategy for Human Rights in Egypt, the first of its kind, which aims to promote through state policies social, economic, political and cultural rights.
His Excellency President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued the National Strategy for Human Rights (2021-2026) in the belief that achieving stability, progress and sustainable development is linked to respect for human rights. Eliminating poverty and guaranteeing that every citizen can enjoy a decent life, including access to housing, food, water and other commodities, are human rights.
The state has eliminated dangerous slums and provided decent housing to citizens by creating one million housing units, the largest such project in the history of Egypt. This is in addition to a presidential initiative that comprises 100,000 economical housing units and another 25,000 midrange housing units.
The right to life also means confronting terrorist groups that undermine the stability and security of society. The right to physical safety also means ensuring people are healthy, as through the president’s 100 Million Health initiative, which has helped eliminate hepatitis C and provide early detection of breast cancer. Moreover, Egypt has professionally dealt with the coronavirus pandemic at a time when even some developed countries raised the white flag.
Egypt has also become a model country for the treatment of prisoners and respect for their human rights, through the example of Tora prison. Each prison contains clinics with a variety of specialty services including x-ray units, dialysis and emergency surgery rooms. There are also larger central hospitals for each geographical area and routine testing for hepatitis C.
The country treats prisons as a place, not just for punishment, but for reform. It does this by providing educational courses, as well as programmes to train prisoners in various trades. Prisons are now home to industrial secondary schools, industrial and agricultural projects and animal production, all of which provides prisoners with a monthly salary.
The state seeks to reduce the number of prisoners by periodically offering prisoners conditional release and presidential pardons. For example, prisoners may be released if they have served half of their sentence, or if they are suffering from a life-threatening disease or are otherwise disabled. In prison, inmates with disabilities are granted artificial limbs and other accommodations as necessary.
Today, young people and persons with disabilities have been integrated into political life, including into leadership positions. Today, youth occupy seats in the House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as positions in ministries as ministers, assistant ministers, governors and deputy governors.
It is unacceptable for a particular country to pass judgment on others in the field of human rights. The countries that denounce human rights violations are the former colonial countries with an extensive history of human rights violations. Moreover, the criticisms always coincide with the interests of the countries doing the criticising. The United States, for example, singles out the human rights violations of its enemies while remaining silent about violations in friendly countries.
*The writer is a member of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Relations Committee.