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03/19/2021 Egypt (International Christian Concern) – In response to the release of a UN statement signed by thirty-one countries condemning Egyptian human rights abuses, the country has come out in defense of its human rights record. The  statement, signed last Friday, called attention to the country’s stifling of dissent and paid particular attention to the use of vague terrorism charges against peaceful opponents and rights advocates.

Following the release of the statement, Egypt’s parliament, senate, and foreign ministry rejected the international condemnation and defended the country’s crackdown on journalists and other rights advocates as lawful. Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukri, said that the text was baseless and ignored positive achievements. “They focus on political aspects only, intentionally ignoring the economic and social dimension of human rights,” Shoukri said.

The Egyptian foreign ministry issued a response calling the criticism inaccurate and incomplete, saying it would present its own rebuttal to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the body that issued the statement, highlighting the shortcomings in the human rights records of some of the signatories. Egyptian government spokesman Ahmed Jamal Bahaa El-Din used the Human Rights Council session in Geneva on March 15 to convey Egypt’s response to the statement, stating that the signatories had no right to assess Egypt’s human rights situation, calling it a double standard.

“Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway are described as the most respectful of human rights,” El-Din said. “Yet as soon as refugees arrived to these countries, they had their properties confiscated and were met with racist tweets against Africans and Muslims…countries such as Germany, Ireland, Austria, France, Belgium and the Netherlands always call for freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations outside their countries, but when protests happen in their counties, they are immediately shut down by force and unjustified violence and treated as second class citizens.”

Egypt’s rejection of the international criticism has attracted widespread scorn from opposition politicians and social media users, including former vice president Mohamed el-Baradei who tweeted, “I had hoped that the response to the human rights statement would be that we have real problems and are working to solve them instead of the canned response since the sixties that the statement is politicized and we are ok. Facing reality is the path to reform, beginning with the release of prisoners of conscience, and ending with the much-needed foreign direct investment.”

Other prominent critics included former minister of parliamentary affairs, Mohamed Mahsoob who condemned Egypt’s response as “shameful.”

Even if their claims are true, there is a significant difference between some isolated cases in these countries [such as Germany, Sweden, Iceland, etc.] and the systematic policy of the Sisi regime regarding human rights in Egypt,” said Mahsoob.

The increased attention from the international community and prominent Egyptian politicians, is important in shedding light on the situation of rights advocates within the country, which holds an estimated 60,000 political prisoners despite claims to the contrary by the regime.

For interviews, please contact Alison Garcia: press@persecution.org