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Procedure : 2011/2909(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document :

Texts tabled :

RC-B7-0595/2011

Debates :

PV 17/11/2011 - 11.2
CRE 17/11/2011 - 11.2

Votes :

PV 17/11/2011 - 12.2

Texts adopted :

P7_TA(2011)0518

Debates
Thursday, 17 November 2011 - Strasbourg OJ edition

11.2. Egypt, in particular the case of blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah
Video of the speeches
PV
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  President. – The next item is the debate on seven motions for resolution on Egypt, in particular, the case of blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah(1).

 
  
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  Michał Tomasz Kamiński, author. (PL) Mr President, all of us welcomed the events last spring in Egypt, the events that filled us with a lot of hope. Egypt is a country of extreme importance – not only for the region but, one is allowed to say, for the entire world. It is difficult to ignore a country with a population of over 70 million; a country whose cultural significance in the Arab world is huge. There is yet another reason for hoping that Egypt shall become a luminous example of democratic changes and an example of what we, the residents of Europe – as neighbours with the Arabic world – forever hold dear: Egypt must be an example of modernity that is capable of functioning in the context of democracy in the world permeated with Islamic values. We all should care about this so that we could say that Arabic states, Islamic states, share the same democratic values as those of us who live in Europe.

Unfortunately, more and more signals are emerging to let us know that events taking place in Egypt today inspire no optimism. There are still cases when human rights are violated – not to mention the issue that we were discussing here not too long ago, that is, the rights of the minority of Christian Copts in Egypt, the rights that are routinely violated. Today we are dealing with the specific case concerning freedom of speech.

I should like to appeal from this podium to the Parliament to issue a clear signal to the people of Egypt and to the authorities of Egypt: we welcome changes underway over there but would want those changes to be for the better, not for the worse. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Jaroslav Paška, author. (SK) Mr President, Hosni Mubarak’s departure from the office of president of the Republic of Egypt has paved the way for an interim military government to take over the Egyptian state.

The events during a peaceful demonstration for the rights of Coptic Christians in October this year, in which more than 25 civilians were killed and more than 300 injured, have shown that the interim Egyptian government is losing its sense of proportion when it comes to peaceful and civilised conduct in the country. The persecution of the bloggers, Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad, and of thousands of other civilians before military courts, confirms that the interim government is starting to use authoritarian methods of government.

The Egyptian military courts do not meet the requirements of Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular as regards the right to an impartial and independent assessment of a charge. We cannot, therefore, accept the continuation of trials of Egyptian civilians before military tribunals, and we strongly urge the interim government immediately to return to civilised and decent methods of ruling the country.

 
  
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  Marie-Christine Vergiat, author. (FR) Mr President, many of us in this House welcomed the so-called Arab Spring, but the revolutions are not unfolding in the same way everywhere. The Tunisians have just elected their constituent assembly in a democratic framework that no one challenged, and the democratic transition seems to be well under way.

Unfortunately, Tunisia is the only country about which we can be optimistic. In Libya, there is talk of introducing Sharia law; in Syria, men and women are being killed every day; and in Egypt, we can only be worried. NGOs estimate that more than 12 000 civilians have been tried before military courts since March 2011. On 30 October, so too was the blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who was already imprisoned under Hosni Mubarak. His counterpart, Maikel Nabil Sanad, suffered the same fate. Both men refused to cooperate with the military courts. They symbolise the Egyptian people’s right to civil justice. They symbolise the repression that is still suffered today by critics of the regime and of its soldiers, in particular.

There can be no democracy without the right to a fair trial and without freedom of expression. With the Egyptian elections 10 days away, we must send a strong message to the Egyptian authorities so that they actually guarantee the rights of all their fellow citizens.

 
  
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  Kristian Vigenin, author.(BG) Mr President, Commissioner, colleagues, the subject of today’s debate and resolution concerns the specific cases of the bloggers Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad. As representatives of 500 million European citizens we call for their immediate release.

However, these cases are symptomatic of the stage which Egypt is at. We are receiving a great deal of information and analyses about the pressure and harassment which journalists, human rights defenders and activists are being subject to. Between March this year and now, more than 12 000 civilians have appeared before military courts. The election campaign is starting, but the country is still applying emergency legislation which grants the army and military courts special rights.

We still do not know the exact details of what happened on 9 October in Cairo and who is to blame for the 25 human lives taken. The Egyptian authorities must be accountable, above all, to their people, but also to us Europeans who are continuing to look upon Egypt with hope, sympathy and readiness to provide support.

We are very much aware from our own history that the path to democracy is long, complicated and involves many internal tensions and conflicts. The removal of Mubarak can be compared with a strong earthquake which rearranges the strata, changes the relief, opens old wounds and creates new tensions.

We know that there will be lots of after-shocks. However, we want to be sure that the course set for democracy in the spring, the defence of human rights and social progress will be maintained and that Egypt will progress with ever-increasing certainty along it. This is why we express our solidarity with everyone who is working for this in Egypt at the moment.

 
  
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  Sari Essayah, author. (FI) Mr President, the European Parliament wants to support the steps the Egyptian people are taking towards democracy, human rights and developing the rule of law. That is why it is particularly important that during the ‘current transition period’, as it is referred to, the international community exercises complete zero tolerance towards violations of human and fundamental rights.

We particularly want this resolution to make an appeal on behalf of the blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who has been held by the military government and whose case, like many others, has been heard by a military court. The chain of events began with a peaceful demonstration in Maspero in support of the freedom of religion of the Coptic Christians and led to the army’s intervention, the slaughter of 25 Christians, the wounding of hundreds of others, and charges being brought against Abd El-Fattah in a military court.

Firstly, legal proceedings against civilians must be conducted by a civil court, and, secondly, prisoners of conscience must be freed immediately. We appeal to Egypt’s present government to show respect for all fundamental rights.

 
  
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  Marietje Schaake, author. – Mr President, Egyptians – old, young, men, and women – have spoken out clearly. They want to determine their own future: opportunities, no corruption. They demand justice and human rights to be respected. We support their calls for freedom and we are humble about the decisions that some of the European Member State governments have made in the past, but we are equally ambitious and committed to establishing a real partnership with Egypt in the future. But which Egypt?

I truly hope we can speak about a new Egypt, but I worry about the way in which the Supreme Council of the armed forces is showing the exact same characteristics as under Mubarak. More than 12 000 civilians have been tried before military courts since the revolution. This injustice must end. I stand with those Egyptians who believe military courts do not have legitimacy. This is also true according to Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights defender and blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah is one of the latest victims. Tomorrow he will celebrate his birthday in a cramped prison cell. From prison, under awful circumstances, he awaits the charges brought against him, trumped-up charges. He also awaits the birth of his son. His wife is due to deliver a baby boy any day. They had faith in the birth of a new Egypt, an Egypt that would provide opportunities for the new generation. His son will be named Khaled after Khaled Saeed who was murdered by the police.

Alaa Abd El-Fattah is a symbol and there are many other symbols that represent the thousands who are imprisoned including Maikel Nabil, another blogger who has been mentioned. The injustice goes on and we support the Egyptians’ peaceful call for a truly new Egypt. That must start with the end of military trials for civilians and the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

I would like to ask whether we can get this resolution translated into Arabic as a matter of exception. I would also like to point out that the spelling of Mr Abd El-Fattah’s name is incorrect and should be corrected.

 
  
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  Franziska Katharina Brantner, author. – Mr President, Egypt is at the brink of falling into old patterns and not even necessarily with new faces. As the elections of 28 November approach, civil liberties and human rights are threatened more than ever in Egypt since the revolution. Since March 2011, more than 12 000 civilians have been tried before military courts. Many democracy activists and bloggers such as Abd El-Fattah and Nabil have been imprisoned – some have even been tortured. We demand their release and civilian trials for civilians.

We believe that this is not an atmosphere and an environment in which truly democratic elections can take place. At the same time, the EU and Baroness Ashton speak in empty phrases and seem to put stability once again before clear and unequivocal support for human rights. In a letter to Members of this House, sent on 28 October, Baroness Ashton called the announcement of the Egyptian military to stop military trials a necessary step, and that is it. No further call on the Egyptian authorities to actually implement their pledges and to respect fundamental human rights. I find this unacceptable.

Together with my colleague, Ms Schaake, who just spoke, we have urged the High Representative to re-examine the facts and to support the European Parliament which has repeatedly condemned military trials for civilians in the strongest terms and continues to do so today with this urgency resolution. The EU has no choice; if we stand aside in the interest of false stability we risk losing the little credibility we have left in the region. Real stability will only come if human rights and democracy are taken seriously. The Egyptians can be so proud of what they have achieved, and we need to support them in order to achieve their dreams and their hopes.

 
  
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  Monica Luisa Macovei, on behalf of the PPE Group.(RO) Mr President, the blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah is one of the 12 000 or so civilians tried by the military courts since the start of the revolution in Egypt. He was arrested following a peaceful protest by Coptic Christians on 9 October, which triggered the most violent action from the military authorities against civilians since the downfall of the Mubarak regime. Twenty-five people died and another 300 were injured.

The Commission and Council must call on the Egyptian authorities to stop trying civilians in military courts, to free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience immediately and to carry out a major, independent investigation into the violence at Maspero, which took place in the wake of the peaceful demonstration supporting Coptic Christians’ rights. We must all make sure that the start of the revolution and the revolution itself in Egypt lead to genuine democracy.

 
  
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  Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, on behalf of the S&D Group.(PL) Mr President, detention of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, an Egyptian blogger and political activist, is a worrying example of how human rights are violated in Egypt – even after the termination of Mubarak’s rule. Alaa Abd El-Fattah played a prominent role as a blogger and reporter who was providing an objective description of events during the revolution. On 30 October, Mr Fattah was summoned by the Military Prosecutor and presented with a charge of inciting violence and aggression against the military during the clashes on 9 October in Cairo. As a civilian, Mr Fattah refused to submit himself to the investigation conducted by the military tribunal and was, therefore, arrested.

The situation with Mr Fattah is not an isolated case. Powers vested in the interim government of Egypt during the state of emergency are used as a tool for detaining bloggers, journalists and human rights activists. Since last March military tribunals have sentenced over 12 thousand civilians. At this key point in the course of democratic change we support unswervingly such developments within the state that are founded on principles of democracy and respect for the rights of its citizens: freedom of expression, association, religion or beliefs. The interim government of Egypt must also respect these rights.

 
  
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  Rui Tavares, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group.(PT) Mr President, Alaa Abd El-Fattah is an Egyptian blogger and hard man to crack. He was imprisoned in the time of President Mubarak for having created a blog aggregator that operated without censorship. When he came out of prison, his wife, Manal, immediately said that there was no going back, and together, he and Manal, who is also an uncompromising blogger, created an opposition blog which is among the most widely read in Egypt, and which they kept whilst in exile.

When the revolution broke out they returned to Egypt and were in Tahrir Square, where they gave a good account of themselves. Then, after the revolution, they continued with the same type of monitoring of the new regime as they had done with the old Mubarak regime. This Alaa Abd El-Fattah did very openly, and it was this that led the new military regime to arrest him on utterly spurious charges and to subject him to a military trial. His sister, Mona Seif, is the president of an organisation calling for an end to military trials, not only for her brother but also for the 12 000 civilians who are imprisoned and facing military trials. She is another of these uncompromising Egyptians, as are all the courageous and admirable Egyptians who have fought for freedom in Egypt and who are still fighting.

It is up to us not only to state that we are with them, that we will not abandon them and that we commemorate them here; we must also stop being so lenient towards the new military regime in Egypt. The new military regime cannot be a kind of Mubarak regime without Mubarak. We have been too patient for too long, especially for fear of … that is to say, there have been allegations of religious intolerance, in which the Egyptian army in fact had a hand. Here we are again lapsing into Europe’s old errors, making friends among Egypt’s powerful in order to secure peace among the minorities.

Our policy – as it should have been in the past and as it must be from now on into the future – is zero tolerance of breaches of human rights, and that is what Baroness Ashton must enforce from now on.

 
  
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  Ryszard Czarnecki, on behalf of the ECR Group.(PL) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, with respect to human rights in Egypt, what we observe is regress and reversal. That dream, the Spring of Nations, which was to usher in new standards and respect for human rights, is essentially becoming a delusion before our very eyes. Those who several months ago perceived that it is not sufficient to remove a dictator but is also necessary to see who is standing behind him and what type of persons stand to gain power in that country may say today that they were right. It is a pity that the country that has created – in a sense – a phantom of freedom is now becoming a place where freedom is thin on the ground, which is also true as far as freedom of speech is concerned. I am speaking as a blogger who has been maintaining his own blog for seven years. I express my solidarity with all bloggers in Arabic states who are victimised as a result of their beliefs.

 
  
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  Jiří Maštálka, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group.(CS) Mr President, the case of the blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah is only a small symbolic illustration of the fecklessness of our policies. The Arab spring celebrations, in which unknown people came to power with unsuspected objectives and interests with the help of the European Union states, resulted in the arrest of people guilty of one thing, namely having their own opinion. We must learn once and for all that you cannot support people for whom slogans about human rights and democracy are no more than a smokescreen concealing their lust for power and their defence of their own privileges. Most of the problems of North Africa and the Middle East are long-term in nature and have social roots that are often fundamentally linked to European colonialism. The hasty resolution of these problems, in particular through war, purely and simply leads to new problems that are often even worse. However, just as before the attack on Iraq, we are once again seeing confrontational policies that prevent any manoeuvring, rather than seeking compromises and paths to understanding and change. I must again stress that it is easier to make war than to build peace. Easier and cheaper. Must millions of Iraqis really become refugees, or Sirte be bombed, for the sake of our policies?

Europe’s role should be the cultivated and unambiguous promotion of human rights without any policy of double standards. I agree with Turkish calls for a speedy resolution of the situation in Syria. But I do not understand why violence can be used to suppress Kurdish rebels, and yet violence may not be used to suppress Syrian rebels. The fate of Alaa Abd El-Fattah should remind us that human rights are indivisible.

 
  
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  Seán Kelly (PPE). – Mr President, Egypt is a fine country; very attractive with a noble and indeed romantic history, but the activities of the military junta is not doing its reputation any favours. In particular, I think the treatment of Coptic Christians is not acceptable by any means, and I say that as a Christian myself and as a member of the EPP, which is the Christian Democrat party. Certainly, we need to do more to stand up for Christians and indeed everybody who is being persecuted in the name of religion around the world.

The case of Mr Fattah is particularly important today and he is to be congratulated on his courage in not accepting a trial by the military junta, and of course he has been put in prison as a result. We have to support in every way we can the ‘No to Military Trials’ movement which is asking all Egyptians not to cooperate with the military tribunals. In that way, we might move forward in the name of freedom, in the name of the people of Egypt.

 
  
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  Corina Creţu (S&D).(RO) Mr President, we applauded together the changes that took place in Egypt this spring and we expressed our solidarity with those who fought for democracy and freedom in the centre of Egypt’s capital. Unfortunately, we have to say that the changes in Egypt are minimal, that the methods and abuse are continuing and that the army is governing by force and ignoring the objections voiced by the international community. We have witnessed an upsurge in internal violence in Egypt in the last two months, violence which has also affected minority religious groups, such as the Coptic Christians.

Based on the information provided by human rights activists in Egypt, more than 12 000 civilians have appeared before military courts following the downfall of the Mubarak regime, which raises serious question marks about the process of democratisation in Egypt. This is also the situation that Alaa Abd El-Fattah is in, who has refused to be investigated by the military judicial system which he accuses of being biased. I too add my voice to those who have called in this Chamber for the release of Alaa Abd El-Fattah and all those like him.

We also call for the rights to a fair trial to be guaranteed, before a civilian court, in compliance with all the procedural rights. I believe that we need to monitor events more closely in Egypt to make sure that such abuses are going to stop.

 
  
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  Eija-Riitta Korhola (PPE).(FI) Mr President, at the end of October, Cairo witnessed the death of 25 people as a result of the army’s response to a peaceful demonstration by Coptic Christians. The event is a tragic example among the numerous similar cases that we have also previously raised here.

In Egypt this year, 12 000 people have already been sentenced in a military court, rather than in a civilian one. The questionable arrest and imprisonment of the well-known Egyptian blogger, Abd El-Fattah, have made the news headlines in recent days. His decision to remain silent before the military court is a brave one, but his sole request is an independent, fair trial in a civil court. This should be everyone’s basic right.

The international attention that the case has attracted is at least timely. Egypt is going through an important time of change as far as democracy is concerned. The social media have played a major role in the events of the Arab Spring, including Egypt where the approaching elections will indicate the future direction. Once more, it will be the EU’s responsibility to demonstrate its commitment to standing up for democracy and freedom of religion and speech, and to support all those Egyptians who are striving to make their legal democratic aspirations a reality.

 
  
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  Cristian Dan Preda (PPE).(RO) Mr President, we also discussed the human rights situation in Egypt during the previous plenary. We are doing so again now. This point was also highlighted by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last week when she said that the reduction in the scope for freedom of expression and association in Egypt is extremely worrying. I too add my voice to those who have called for the immediate release of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a dissident blogger against the Mubarak regime who is currently in detention. He was detained and will be tried by a military court because he dared to criticise the actions of the security forces during the Maspero protests.

The lines written by Alaa Abd El-Fattah from cell 19 in Bab El-Khalek prison sum up very well, in my view, how absurd the situation is. I quote: ‘After Egypt’s revolution, I never expected to be back in Mubarak’s jail.’ Just as my colleagues have also requested, I believe that it must stop arresting and bringing detainees like him before military courts. This is certainly not democracy.

 
  
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  Anna Záborská (PPE).(SK) Mr President, the blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, was accused of calling for resistance against the armed forces during a demonstration. Against those who, right before his eyes, were killing unarmed people. He stood before a military court, even though he is not a soldier. He was imprisoned, while those who committed violence before his eyes and the eyes of the world remain free and unpunished.

In Slovakia, we know this scenario. To break up a peaceful demonstration in Bratislava in 1988, the communists used water cannon and police violence. Christians who demanded respect for fundamental rights were beaten, arrested and interrogated. Therefore, in the name of Christians and all citizens of Slovakia, we want the European Parliament to send a strong signal to Egypt today. We want the Egyptians to know that Europe demands that its partners respect fundamental human rights such as freedom of belief and religion and also freedom of speech. Without guarantees of these rights, a country without a dictator is the same as a country with a dictator.

 
  
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  Mitro Repo (S&D).(FI) Mr President, the role of the social media in the events of the Arab Spring has been very important. The social media have helped report the course of events and disseminate information on the people’s demands for democracy. For example, we would not know about the events in Syria but for those brave individuals who put their own lives in danger when communicating information on what is happening in the country to the outside world.

Egypt is experiencing a dramatic change in its switch to democracy. It faces enormous challenges and difficulties along the way. While the blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad continues to sit in a prison cell, the blogger Abd El-Fattah is now at the mercy of an army prosecutor. No blogger or national activist exercising his or her freedom of speech should be harassed or imprisoned by the authorities.

Freedom of speech is one of the fundamental democratic pillars of society, and no one should be punished for exercising that freedom. That is why the European Union must show consistency: we must be prepared to help the Egyptian people, who are peacefully seeking a democratic future.

 
  
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  Janusz Wojciechowski (ECR).(PL) Mr President, we all regret that the Egyptian Spring has come to be so rapidly replaced with an autumn, that violation of human rights is already taking place over there, but I am most profoundly saddened by what is, regrettably, mass persecutions of Christians in Egypt and the indifference displayed by the Egyptian authorities toward this phenomenon. We often subject ourselves to a lot of criticism, approve of a lot of resolutions – should a minor incident occur that is targeting representatives of other religions in Europe. We must respond adequately to incomparably worse situations that Christians in various parts of the world come to face, especially in Egypt where persecution of this type is particularly fierce.

We condemn such persecution and must demand of the Egyptian authorities to take measures to protect Christians. Religious persecution spells barbarity and a country that would like to join the realm of civilisation should never tolerate anything of the kind.

 
  
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  Elena Băsescu (PPE).(RO) Mr President, compared with regimes that blatantly violate human rights, it could be said that Alaa Abd El-Fattah’s situation is not so serious. However, Egypt wants to become a democracy. To do this, the basic principles need to be respected in every situation. In a proper democracy civilians are not brought before military courts. It may seem a minor point, but it is not. If such exceptions are accepted and treated lightly, they can pave the way to any abuse.

The military in Egypt have played an important role in replacing the Mubarak regime. However, now they have an even more important role: to respect their powers, thereby providing the foundations for a proper democracy. Shedding light on the violent incidents against the Coptic Christians is also an important aspect of this process.

 
  
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  Ana Gomes (S&D).(PT) Mr President, I have been a blogger for almost 10 years now and this is because I live in a country that freed itself from dictatorship, censorship and military tribunals in 1974. Our experience shows me that the most fundamental of the freedoms through which a genuine transition to democracy can be assessed is freedom of information and expression.

If the interim military government in Egypt does not respect these fundamental freedoms, as highlighted by the cases of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alaa_Abd_El-Fatah" and Maikel Nabil Sanad, and the more than 12 000 who have passed through the courts in the last few months, then we have every reason to fear that we are witnessing the wretched betrayal of those who have fought and died for democracy, justice and human rights in the various Tahrir Squares across Egypt.

We need to send out a very clear message on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and all the European authorities that we will not tolerate this, and that the European authorities and we in this House demand that human rights and basic freedoms be respected by the Egyptian authorities, and that those currently locked up be freed.

 
  
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  Carl Schlyter (Verts/ALE).(SV) Mr President, in the spring of 1848, a wave of democracy swept over Europe, resulting in the recognition of human rights and demands for universal suffrage. I hope that the Arab Spring will not meet the same fate as the European Spring did in 1848 when the setback came and kings and dictators took back the power from the people.

It is important that we bring up this particular case, but it is also a failure on our part that, in 1999, we decided to have a military force and a peace-keeping force, but we put all our effort into the military force. If we had built up the peace-keeping force with quarterly reports, judges, bureaucrats, police trainers, engineers and democracy engineers, we would have been in a position to help these countries when the Arab Spring arrived. It is high time that we sorted out the European peace-keeping force. That is how we can best help these countries now, so that they do not suffer the same failure that we did in 1848.

 
  
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  Tomasz Piotr Poręba (ECR).(PL) Mr President, every time this year when we have been discussing the situation in Egypt in a context of how common human rights violations are over there, back returns, indeed, again and again, the issue of that country’s persecuted Christians. Having said this, today we are talking about the blogger – a critic of abuses committed by the Egyptian authorities who, on his Internet page, voiced his protest against the army that routinely recurs to the use of force. These activities caused his detention – just like in many other cases.

The Constitution of Egypt guarantees freedom of faith and freedom of practising one’s religion; however, the Supreme Military Command behaves as if none of these stipulations exist. The new Egyptian authorities have no regard for the rights of Christian minorities; they apprehend journalists, bloggers and representatives of various bodies and agencies who oppose events taking place in Egypt – and subject Christians to violent persecutions.

Egypt is involved in the European Neighbourhood programme; it is receiving considerable financial aid from the European Union. This is yet another reason why it is necessary to call upon the EU authorities to predicate further transfers of these resources on a considerable improvement of the situation in Egypt and to apply all available means of influencing the Supreme Military Command to ensure that persecutions of Copts are stopped – along with violations of human rights in Egypt. Thank you very much.

 
  
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  Peter Jahr (PPE).(DE) Mr President, Egypt is an important political factor in this region. In other words, a stable, democratic state would also help stabilise the region as a whole. Each country needs to navigate its own path to democracy. That is indeed the case. However, indivisible and essential human rights exist. These include freedom of expression, religious freedom, freedom of assembly and the rule of law. These are essential factors and are not up for discussion.

The release of illegal detainees, such as Alaa Abd El-Fattah, would represent an important political signal that Egypt is really serious about democracy. These are the yardsticks we should use to judge the country and I support the motion presented for a resolution. I would also ask that the European Commission should continuously strive to ensure that Egypt does not just pay lip service to democratic principles, but that it actually puts them into practice.

 
  
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  Othmar Karas (PPE).(DE) Mr President, I just wish to inform you that in a few minutes I will be leaving for a conference in Beirut, after which I will travel on to Egypt, where these questions will be discussed. Naturally I will take the present resolution and speeches as the basis for my talks and remarks.

The situation as it now stands is that the Arab Spring is over, but the democratic spring has yet to blossom. If we do not have a debate on religious freedom and human rights, if we do not have an agreed constitution that fulfils these principles before elections are held, then we will not be able to move forward boldly into the future. For this reason I wish to thank you for these resolutions. They will be an essential part of my luggage.

To repeat: the Charter of Fundamental Rights must be the basis for all activities by all functionaries whenever they represent Europe and must provide us with guidance in relation to the rule of law and democracy.

 
  
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  Maria Damanaki, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, respect for democratic values and human rights is a cornerstone in the relations between the European Union and its neighbours. Article 2 of the association agreement between the European Union and Egypt stipulates that the relations between the parties should be based on respect for democratic principles and fundamental rights. These include, of course, freedom of religion or belief, freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

On behalf of the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission as a whole, I would like to emphasise that the broadening and reactivation of the Emergency Law in Egypt and its extension during the forthcoming elections are matters of concern, particularly in relation to respect for freedom of expression, the importance of a functioning civilian justice system and the right to be tried in accordance with international standards.

The need to ensure civil order is legitimate but it should be consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international instruments. That is our position. It should not hamper the spirit and expectations of the ‘25 January Revolution’ nor the aspiration of the Egyptian people for genuine and democratic elections. Unfortunately, the EU offer of election observation has been turned down by the Egyptian authorities: they consider international election observation as interference in domestic affairs. Nevertheless, the EU will provide election assistance through the training of several thousand domestic election monitors and capacity-building activities for the High Electoral Commission.

The Egyptian authorities must lift the Emergency Law as soon as possible. That is the High Representative’s position and the position of the Commission as a whole. Under the Emergency Law, detention is possible even without a trial. This provision has been applied to blogger Alaa Abd El-Fattah, who is accused of having incited violence against the armed forces and of having assaulted military personnel in front of the Maspero State TV building on 9 October 2011.

Military trials of civilians deny the accused the full measure of the law available in civilian courts. Regrettably, the promise made on 15 September 2011 by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to stop referring civilians to military courts was not kept. The EU is constantly raising its concerns about the Emergency Law and the trial of civilians before military courts, including in the specific cases of Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Maikel Nabil Sanad. In this context, the EU has raised serious concerns about the possible interpretation of the exceptions under which the military trials may continue.

 
  
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  President. – The debate is closed.

The vote will take place shortly.

Written statements (Rule 149)

 
  
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  Tokia Saïfi (PPE), in writing. (FR) I am particularly concerned at the information reaching us from Egypt. For several weeks now, many journalists, bloggers, civil society activists and human rights defenders have been intimidated, and even prosecuted, because of what they have written, declared or done. Having shown responsibility and courage during the peaceful demonstrations that led to President Hosni Mubarak standing down, they must be able freely to exercise the fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, for which they revolted. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces must stop trying civilians before military courts, or else the democratic transition under way will be put in jeopardy. Looking ahead to the electoral process, which will last for several months, I therefore call on the Egyptian authorities to be responsible and enforce fundamental rights. The army must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people, as it did during the revolution, and help build a new Egypt.

 
  

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