EU-Egypt counter-terror forum bid 'affront' to rights: watchdog

EU-Egypt counter-terror forum bid 'affront' to rights: watchdog
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Human Rights Watch urged the European Union Tuesday not to launch a proposed joint bid with Egypt to lead a global counter-terrorism body over its human rights record
HRW said Egypt has become "a human rights black hole" since President Sisi rose to power in 2013 [Getty- file photo]

An international rights watchdog Tuesday urged the European Union not to launch a proposed joint bid with Egypt to lead a global counter-terrorism body, deploring the North African nation's treatment of critics.

On Sunday, Egypt's foreign ministry announced it intends to run on a joint ticket with the EU to lead the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), an organisation described by HRW as "a multilateral platform with far-reaching influence on global counterterrorism policy".

Citing a leaked 'Council of the EU' branded document that outlined a proposed joint bid, HRW urged the EU to "seriously reconsider its move", due to "Egypt's abhorrent record of human rights violations in the name of counterterrorism."

It said in a statement that Egypt has become "a human rights black hole" since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi rose to power in 2013.

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HRW cited the Egyptian authorities' targeting of civil society groups, journalists, rights defenders, politicians and lawyers among others in recent years.

Rights groups say Egypt is holding some 60,000 political prisoners, many facing brutal conditions and overcrowded cells.

"Rather than shamefully considering a joint bid with Egypt overlooking its miserable rights record, the EU should start taking meaningful action to address it," HRW said.

The GCTF comprises 30 member countries and closely cooperates with the United Nations to combat terrorism.

It seeks "to diminish terrorist recruitment and increase countries' civilian capabilities for dealing with terrorist threats," according to its website.

Egypt has since February 2018 been conducting a nationwide operation against Islamist militants, mainly focused on North Sinai and the country's Western Desert.

Over 1,000 suspected militants and dozens of security personnel have been killed in the Sinai, according to official figures.

No independently-sourced death toll is available as North Sinai is off-limits to journalists.

The North African country has been selected to host the next climate summit -- the COP27 -- which is due to take place in Sharm El-Sheikh later this year.

HRW contended in November that the move "rewards the repressive rule of" Sisi.