Before the European Parliament
Bahey eldin Hassan Called for Truth, Accountability, and Justice for Giulio Regeni and the Victims of Maspero and Rabaa Massacres
Hassan Discussed with Officials the EU’s Responsibility to Protect Egyptian HRDs in Europe
Bahey eldin Hassan, the Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and Moataz al-Fegiery, board member of CIHRS and MENA Protection Coordinator at Frontline Defenders, gave their testimonies before the European Parliament on May 30, on the human rights situation in Egypt.
In his testimony, Hassan emphasized the qualitative deterioration that has taken place in regard to the rule of law, upholding constitutional guarantees, separation of state powers, combating corruption, political violence and terrorism in Egypt, and the prospects of sustainable stability since he spoke before the European Parliament in May 2015. He explained President Sisi’s failure to contain terrorism, which has spilled over from the Sinai Peninsula into mainland Egypt. Hassan explained that this failure is reflected by the government’s inability and unwillingness to protect Egyptian citizens, including Coptic Egyptians. Hassan stated that while “the Sisi government does a great job at paying lip service to the issue of Copts’ rights… the government demonstrated unwillingness to protect the Coptic minority.” Indeed, just five days earlier, an ISIS attack left around 29 Copts dead in the city of Minya, marking a death toll of over 100 Copts since December 2016. Hassan highlighted how “the Sisi government did not allow communal solidarity demonstrations with the Christian community to take place, when average Egyptians wanted to hold them.”
Hassan explained that behind this failure, lies the fact that “Sisi views terrorism as an excuse to advance his real political agenda. Aborting the growing liberal alternative to his failing and ailing regime has been Sisi’s top priority over the past two years.” Hassan added that “Sisi set several alarming precedents including storming of the press syndicate, and cracking down on all sorts of youth activism, including that focused on culture and sports.” He further asserted that to the government, eradicating the Egyptian human rights movement, including through the harassment of human rights defenders in Egypt and Europe, is its real priority, not combating terrorism. Hassan also warned of the ongoing erosion of state institutions, including the parliament and the judiciary, and of the severe repercussions this will have on the prospects of sustainable stability for Egypt, specifically with regard to its Coptic minority.
Hassan concluded by calling on the European Parliament to support the Egyptian people’s aspirations for a modern state that respects the rule of law, equality and citizens’ freedoms and rights. He also urged the EP to support the people’s demands for truth and accountability for the human rights crimes committed since the 2011 uprising. Accordingly, Hassan called for truth, justice, and accountability for Giulio Regeni and for all Egyptian victims of human rights crimes, including the Maspero and Rabaa massacres.
Al-Fegiery explained before the EP how Egypt is witnessing its worst, bloodiest human rights record in its modern history, citing the extrajudicial killing of 1,300 individual in Sinai in 2016, more than 900 cases of enforced disappearance in the same year, and the military trial of 7,000 individuals since 2013. He also highlighted how eradicating human rights activism was a goal set by the Egyptian military since 2011, and that President Sisi “in his capacity at the time as director of military intelligence orchestrated the crackdown on a group of American and German pro-democracy NGOs.” Al-Fegiery pointed that the crackdown on human rights groups included death threats, travel bans, asset freezes, and harassment in Egypt and Europe. He also pointed at how the draconian NGO law, which was issued by President Sisi days ago, makes it impossible for independent civil society to operate in Egypt, especially in regard to foreign funding and cooperation with international NGOs. Additionally, he stressed that terrorism is being used by the government as a pretext to advance its agenda against human rights defenders and the Egyptian human rights community. Al-Fegiery concluded that “while the threats of terrorism and religious extremism are real and longstanding in Egypt, the prospect for stability and security in the country cannot be approached in isolation from the domestic conditions of governance and human rights… only through a process of consensus building, reconciliation, and public participation that Egypt can effectively respond to its deep security and socio-economic challenges.”
During their speeches, the Human Rights Subcommittee Chair and several Members of the European Parliament criticized the escalating crackdown on Egypt’s human rights movement and civil society, and the closing of the public space in the country.
It’s noteworthy that European Parliament took special precautions this session to protect Hassan and al-Fegiery in light of the harassment faced by a several Egyptian and non-Egyptian HRDs in ROME on May 20 and 21. The precautions were also due to the incitement by a prominent media person close to SISI who called for the abduction and killing of Egyptian HRDs in Europe the same way Giulio Regeni was killed. Those incidents were highlighted by Hassan and al-Fegiery in their testimonies.
At the European Parliament and during the session, media affiliated to Egyptian security bodies tried to harass Hassan and al-Fegiery, which left members of the EP, including the head of the Human Rights Subcommittee in utter shock. Hassan later stated that this was a live demonstration of what he mentioned in his testimony.
The following day, Hassan met with Mr. Stavros Lambrinidis, the European Union’s Special Representative for Human Rights, and Mr. Giulio Di Blasi from the Cabinet of the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. In this 90-minute meeting, Hassan pointed to the concerns he highlighted at in the European Parliament the previous day, and discussed the responsibility of the EU to protect Egyptian HRDs located in Europe in light of the security harassment they were exposed to in Geneva, Rome, and Brussels, as well as the incitement to abduct and kill them.
For Bahey eldin Hassan Speech see below
For al-Fegiery’s speech see below
This post is also available in: Arabic