Egypt revives 'human rights strategy' ahead of Biden meeting

Egypt revives 'human rights strategy' ahead of Biden meeting
The initiative, launched by Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over a year ago, has been criticised as a talking shop that deflects froom the horrific reality of the human rights situation in Egypt.
2 min read
08 December, 2022
President Biden is due to meet with Sisi during a UN summit in Washington next week [Getty images]

Egypt officials have revived plans for a 'national strategy' on human rights, just days before US President Joe Biden receives African leaders from across the continent in Washington DC this month.

The plan, which was previously announced by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi over a year ago, was relaunched by Egypt's National Council on Human Rights this week at a forum entitled "the National Human Rights Strategy and the role of political parties".

During the meeting, the council president thanked the state for its "efforts in spreading, protecting and promoting human rights". 

Egypt's poor human rights record came under particular scrutiny during the UN's recent COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, as global outcry built over the continued detention of British-Egyptian journalist Alaa Abdel Fattah

The country is the world's third-largest jailer of journalists, who languish alongside tens of thousands of political prisoners.  

Some members of the council are not convinced by the regime's new overtures on improving human rights. 

"More than one year on since Sisi launched the plan for ‘national dialogue’, we’re still discussing general issues - like the role of political parties - and ignoring the really pressing matters facing Egypt day-by-day," said one of the council members, speaking anonymously to The New Arab's Arabic-language service,  al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"It’s become clear that the authorities use the rhetoric of human rights when it suits them. We have meetings and discussions, and improve the superficial image of the regime."

"Then they move on, and human rights are entirely forgotten," the source concluded. 

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies said the original strategy launched last year "denies the catastrophic reality of the human rights crisis in Egypt, and aims to delude international partners that there is a process of reform".

"The authorities use it as a propaganda tool to hide their ever-intensifying repression," said a report by the institute published in the wake of the strategy. 

Egypt is estimated to have jailed an estimated 60,000 political prisoners since a 2013 coup overthrew the country's first democratically elected government.