Egypt defends rights record against critics at UN

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Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s government defended its human rights record against Western and regional critics at a United Nations hearing on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The North African country declared that personal freedoms were among its prime concerns.

At a review before the UN Human Rights Council that all member states must go through every four years, Turkey and Tunisia said basic rights had been cut back in Egypt since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in mid-2013 following mass protests against his rule.

Representatives of the former army chief Al-Sisi’s government rejected the accusations of widespread repression of dissent.

“Human rights and freedoms of citizens come at the top of the priorities of the national government,” Egyptian Transitional Justice Minister Ibrahim El-Heneidi told the session of the Geneva-based, 47-nation Council.

He said Al-Sisi, who was elected president in March this year, “is keen to always emphasize full respect for human rights.”

The US said it was “deeply concerned with steps taken by Egypt that have resulted in violations of freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

Turkey, whose own Islamist-based government had close ties with the now jailed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood movement, pointed to what it called a “systematic and widespread use of unlawful lethal force by the (Egyptian) security forces.

“The continuing mass imposition of death sentences, without respect for the right to a fair trial of the defendants, is alarming,” a Turkish envoy told the Council hearing.

The Council, an arena for sharp divisions between developed and developing countries over the meaning of human rights, will issue a report on the three-hour Egypt debate later in the week, with recommendations for any action. Egypt will have several weeks to say which of these it will accept.

Al-Sisi’s government has banned the Muslim Brotherhood organisation for promoting lethal means against security forces after Morsi was ousted following a popular revolution in 2013.