Egypt rejects criticism of human rights record after rebuke at UN council

CAIRO — Egypt’s senate and parliament reject accusations of human rights violations leveled this week by dozens of countries at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

In a rare oral rebuke of Egypt at the council, 31 countries issued a joint statement yesterday voicing alarm at restrictions on free expression and assembly suffered by political opponents, rights defenders and journalists in the North African country.

Egypt’s senate says today that “no lawyer, journalist or human rights lawyer or human rights activist is in custody unless he has committed a crime justifying the actions taken against him — whether through a fair trial or fair investigations conducted by a judiciary fully independent from the executive branch.”

“The Egyptian state has only used anti-terrorism laws against those who have already committed terrorist crimes,” it says in a statement, criticizing the joint declaration for treating the issues raised “superficially.”

Egypt’s parliament, meanwhile, urged the 31 countries “not to install themselves as guardians of Egypt” and to refrain from “politicizing human rights issues for political or electoral purposes.”

Using arguments often made by President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, lawmakers say the council “should have taken an objective view of Egypt’s efforts to maintain security and stability not only internally but also regionally.”