Following an outcry from human rights activists and NGOs, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has decided to postpone its regional conference on “Defining and Criminalizing Torture in Legislation in the Arab Region” due to be held on 4-5 September 2019 in Cairo. EuroMed Rights welcomes this move and is ready to take part in the NGO consultation that is expected to follow that decision.
“Our decision to not attend the OHCHR regional conference was grounded on the risk of ‘whitewashing’ the Egyptian regime’s human rights violations, including systematic torture, and the unprecedented clampdown on civil society in Egypt,” said EuroMed Rights’ president, Wadih Al-Asmar, when the UN decision was confirmed. “Now the dialogue with civil society should lead to not only find another date enabling a meaningful consultation, but also another place… The UN should organise events in countries where the safety of participants can be guaranteed, where they can openly and freely discuss human rights issues, such as torture prevention, without fear of reprisals.”
EuroMed Rights’ Executive Director, Rasmus Alenius Boserup, welcomed the decision by the OHCHR: “We support the decision to change the format of the conference. Together with our local members and partners we have in the recent past noticed several incidents in which the Egyptian authorities have exercised reprisals against local activists and civil society members following their engagement with other UN bodies and mechanisms. We would welcome an opportunity to engage in a consultative process with the OHCHR about how to ensure a proper format for the conference.”