Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch are among 15 civil society organizations that have condemned a bid by the EU to jointly chair the Global Counterterrorism Task Force (GCTF) with Egypt on the grounds that Egypt is abusing counterterrorism laws to punish human rights defenders.
In a joint statement, the groups called on the European Union to withdraw its bid to co-chair the GCTF with Egypt.
The fifteen civil society groups said on Thursday that the Egyptian government has been engaged in harassment of human rights defenders and arrests based on “baseless terrorism charges”.
They cited a previous warning by the United Nations Special Procedures asserting that Egypt’s misuse of counterterrorism powers is in violation of the State’s international law obligations as well as undermining broader efforts to prevent terrorism.
Civil society groups expressed anger at the EU’s continuing bid to co-chair the GCTF with Egypt.
An international platform, the GCTF aims to combat incitement and recruitment to terrorist organisations and prosecute terrorist activity. Morocco and Canada currently co-chair the group.
In the past, UN experts have said that Egypt had “a systemic problem with human rights protection…as well as abuse and misuse of counter-terrorism laws and practices.”
Civil society groups pointed out that Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ziad Elaimy both received five-year sentences from Egyptian state security courts for “terrorism”-related charges, while Mohammed Al-Bager received a four-year sentence.
They said that Egypt’s counterterrorism laws had “criminalized the lawful and legitimate exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms” domestically, while accusing Egypt of using its influence internationally to “shift the emphasis of the UN’s global counterterrorism efforts away from human rights, including at the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly”.
“All this therefore begs the question of how giving the Egyptian authorities a leading role in shaping global counter-terrorism policies, would support the EU in its commitment to promote human rights and the rule of law as core principles in such efforts,” the civil society groups’ statement said.
Moreover, the European Parliament had also opposed the EU’s move to co-chair the GCTF with Egypt, and EU member states had condemned the human rights situation, including repression of peaceful critics in counterterrorism laws at the UN Human Rights Council.
In addition to Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the statement was signed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and the World Organisation Against Torture.
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