Egypt steps up efforts ahead of U.N. human rights review

Some events are likely to slow down Egypt’s efforts

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The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs announced this week the beginning of an “intensive preparation” to show its “full commitment to respect the international conventions and the fundamental rights and freedoms,” ahead of the U.N. review on human rights in the North African nation.

“Egypt has called upon the 2014 constitution which included unprecedented articles confirming the full commitment of Egypt to respect the international conventions and the fundamental rights and freedoms,” the ministry said.

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel Ati told Al Arabiya News that “foreign ambassadors in Egypt were asked to give a report about the achievements the Egyptian government has made in the field of human rights.”

Abdel Ati also said that the ministry has held a series of high-level meetings ahead of a periodic review in Geneva.

The report, which will be discussed on Nov. 5, tackles a series of controversial matters including the ‎condition of the disabled, sexual harassment and prison custody.

Persistent criticism

Despite the intensive preparation of the Egyptian government, some human rights experts said that several events are likely to slow down Egypt’s efforts.

“Egypt tried to present an objective report but a series of events and laws are probably going to play against the country,” George Ishak, a member of the National Human Rights Council told Al Arabiya News, adding that the protest law passed in 2013 as well as the military trials for civilians would be likely to generate criticism.

“The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and the dispersal of sit-ins in Rabaa and al-Nahda squares may also be a cause of controversy,” Ishak said.

Since the overthrow by the army of Islamist President Mohammad Mursi last year, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has expanded the powers of the Egyptian armed forces and enabled the prosecution of civilians in military courts.

He also led a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, banning Egypt’s oldest Islamist organization and throwing thousands of its members in jail.

Earlier this week, the Egyptian government banned a pressure group that had pushed for the reinstatement of Mursi.

The Egyptian media has also been affected by the restrictive measures that mean the state of human rights in Egypt remain poor, according to international observers.

Egypt slipped in the ranking of the the World Press Freedom Index 2014 in comparison to the previous year, echoing a growing censorship on the media in recent months.

The country has also been ranked as the third deadliest country for journalists in 2013, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Nothing to hide

However, the notions from international observers do not seem to affect the Egyptian government, which is “confident” and has “nothing to hide.”

“It is not the first time we go through this review from the U.N., we are confident and have nothing to hide,” Abdel Ati said.

”We have been doing what is right for Egypt and for its stability and security despite the various challenges we faced,” he said, stating terrorism as the main obstacle.

Abdel Ati also said that Egypt is going through the human rights review to respect its commitments with the United Nations and not to respond to any criticism from the West.

Egypt had its first universal periodic review, which takes place every four years, in Feb. 2010.

The review under the U.N.’s refugee agency seeks to assess the human rights situation of all U.N. member states.