EU/Egypt: At EU-AU Summit, Europe’s leaders risk legitimizing al-Sisi government’s repression

  • Amnesty spokespeople available
  • Activists including Egyptian rights defenders will protest at Place du Trône, Brussels (near to the statue of Léopold II) on Wednesday 16 February at 14h as Egyptian President visits the Belgian King

EU leaders must press Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to tackle Egypt’s human rights crisis and end the unrelenting assault on human rights defenders when they meet on the sidelines of the European Union – African Union (EU-AU) summit, Amnesty International said today ahead of the event this week.

“EU leaders meeting with President al-Sisi this week should use this opportunity to denounce his government’s crackdown on human rights. Despite his attempts at window dressing, the reality is that gross human rights violations continue unabated in Egypt. EU leaders must not offer him an opportunity to whitewash Egypt’s deeply repressive policies,” said Eve Geddie, Director of Amnesty International’s EU Office.

“The Egyptian authorities are cracking down on any form of dissent. People currently behind bars for peacefully exercising their human rights in the country expect EU leaders to speak out for them and press for change. Failing to do so would send a harmful message that the EU values deepening ties with the authorities over the human rights of people in Egypt.”

Al-Sisi’s visit to Belgium for the EU-AU summit comes against the background of wider concerns about the authorities’ recent efforts to eradicate independent human rights NGOs in the country. In January 2022, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, a prominent human rights NGO, announced its closure after 18 years due to its inability to continue its human rights work in the repressive climate.  

Human rights defenders and other civil society actors continue to be subjected to politically motivated criminal investigations, travel bans, asset freezes, extrajudicial probation measures, and other forms of harassment.

Over  recent months, the Egyptian authorities have also referred at least 28 human rights defenders and peaceful opposition politicians to trials by emergency courts over bogus “false news” or “terrorism” charges. At least seven of them were sentenced following grossly unfair trials in 2021 to between three and five years’ imprisonment for criticizing Egypt’s human rights record, economic policy and living standards.

Despite their self-proclaimed efforts to combat discrimination against women, the Egyptian authorities continue to crack down on women, including survivors of sexual violence, on absurd “morality” or “indecency” charges. They have also punished women’s rights defenders for speaking out against sexual harassment.

President al-Sisi’s visit to Brussels comes shortly after it was revealed that the EU is jointly bidding with Egypt to co-chair the Global Counterterrorism Forum, an influential international counter-terrorism organization. This decision was criticized by 16 NGOs given Egypt’s appalling record of misusing counterterrorism laws to silence dissent, erode due process rights, and keep thousands in indefinite pre-trial detention.   

Amnesty International is calling on EU and AU member states to deliver on their human rights commitments and explicitly support the role of civil society and human rights defenders.

“By continuing to pursue business-as-usual relations with Egypt, the EU risks undermining its own credibility.  The upcoming meeting with al-Sisi must not offer Egypt an opportunity to conceal its horrendous human rights abuses. The harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders in Egypt must end,” said Eve Geddie.


See Amnesty International’s public statement on the EU-AU summit here.

Amnesty International Belgium is organizing a demonstration at Place du Trône on 16 February from 14:00 to 16:00. Ramy Shaath, a recently released prisoner of conscience,  and Souheila Yildiz, the partner of Ahmed Samir, a Master’s student who was sentenced to four years prison in June 2021, will attend the protest.

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