Australia should step up to defend human rights in Egypt

Australia should demonstrate its international human rights leadership by leading action at the Human Rights Council to address the urgent human right situation in Egypt, human rights organisations said in a joint letter to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Egyptians are witnessing the most serious human rights crisis in decades. The Human Rights Law Centre, along with the Human Rights Council of Australia, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights, urged the Australian government to step up and play a leading role addressing Egypt’s brutal crackdown on almost any form of dissent or criticism.

 “Australia is very well placed to lead Council action on Egypt given Australia’s support for democratic freedoms such as free speech, association and assembly at the international level,” said Emily Howie, director of Advocacy and Research at the Human Rights Law Centre. “Plus Australians are already familiar with some of Egypt’s repression of journalists and government critics through the prosecution of Australian Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste.”

Although Greste has been released, his case and that of his Egyptian colleagues, continues and the crackdown on dissent in Egypt has not abated.

Australia has announced its candidacy for membership of the UN Human Rights Council for the term 2018-20. The Council is the peak human rights body empowered to take action on the gravest human rights issues facing the world. To date, no states at the Council have been willing to take a lead on developing a statement or resolution aimed at preventing further deterioration of the human rights in Egypt.

“As a potential member, Australia will be expected to demonstrate its mettle as an international human rights leader. By taking a lead on Egypt, Australia could show that it is capable of active and principled human rights leadership on the world stage,” said Emily Howie.

The letter can be found here.