Joint statement: Participation of UN Secretary-General in Youth Forum provided cover for el-Sisi regime

Egypt’s World Youth Forum, held on 10-13 January 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh “under the patronage of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi", stands in stark contrast with the Egyptian authorities’ years of rampant human rights violations. Ostensibly convened as a “chance for youth to engage with top policymakers, network with promising youth from the region and the world that are determined to make our world a better place for everyone,” the Forum is better understood as a grim reminder of the el-Sisi government’s abuses of power, particularly against youth.

The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, provided opening remarks for the Forum. The undersigned organizations express alarm not only at the Secretary-General lending the stature of his office to the Egyptian authorities, but also his failure to address the realities faced by Egyptian youth. At the same time as the Secretary-General called for the world’s youth to “keep speaking out,” thousands of Egyptian youth languished in detention—many of whom are subject to prolonged pretrial detention, violations of due process, and blatant judicial neglect—for doing exactly that, speaking out to build a better future for their country.

In the last two years, the Justice Watch project documented nearly one thousand violations against young people in detention centres and prisons in Egypt, including enforced disappearance, torture, and arbitrary detention. In March 2021, 32 UN Member States condemned Egypt in the Human Rights Council, specifically deploring the restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, the constrained space for civil society and political opposition, and the use of counterterrorism laws to punish peaceful critics.

Far from meaningfully improving the lives of Egypt’s young people, and even less intended to address the actual issues they face, the Forum rather highlights Egypt’s record of human rights violations. The undersigned organizations urge the international community, including the United Nations Secretariat and the good offices of the Secretary-General, to refrain from facilitating or retreating to complicity in Egypt’s human rights violations. The international community should instead take all possible measures to ensure monitoring and accountability of abuses to ensure Egyptians’, and especially Egyptian youth’s, human rights are respected, protected and fulfilled.

 

Signatories:

  • DIGNITY
  • Committee for Justice
  • EuroMed Rights
  • LGBT+ Danmark
  • EgyptWide for Human Rights
  • Egyptian Human Rights Forum
  • Kvinfo