Egypt Defends Human Rights Record After Criticism From UN Official

UN human rights chief said Egypt government using state of emergency to justify 'systematic silencing of civil society'

A Muslim Brotherhood member gestures from a defendants cage in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt.
A Muslim Brotherhood member gestures from a defendants cage in a courtroom in Torah prison, southern Cairo, Egypt. Amr Nabil/AP

Egypt’s United Nations envoy on Tuesday criticized UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein’s remarks on systemic violence in the country, saying they reflected “flawed logic”, state news agency MENA reported.

Ambassador Amr Ramadan was quoted as saying that he had cautioned Zeid against his office becoming a “mouthpiece for paid agencies with political and economic agendas,” and he rejected his accusations, without elaborating.

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva on Monday, Hussein said the state of emergency declared by the Egyptian government last April had been used to justify “systemic silencing of civil society.”

He cited reports of waves of arrests, arbitrary detention, black-listing, travel bans, asset freezes, intimidation and other reprisals against human rights defenders, journalists, political dissidents and those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood group.

Last week Egypt came under fire from Human Rights Watch, which said in a report that there was systemic torture in the country’s jails, leading Cairo to block access to HRW’s website.

Egypt’s human rights parliamentary committee, which was critical of the report, has also developed an action plan in response, state media reported on Tuesday.

The plan reportedly includes meeting with foreign diplomats in Egypt and outside the country to explain its efforts to defend human rights.