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Viewing cable 10CAIRO253, UPR REACTION: GOE DISPLEASED WITH THE U.S., ACTIVISTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO253 2010-02-25 15:03 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO3347
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0253/01 0561513
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 251512Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0427
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 000253 
 
SIPDIS 
FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA, DRL/MLGA AND IO/RHS 
GENEVA FOR CASSAYRE, MANSFIELD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2035/02/25 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM UN KIRF EG
SUBJECT: UPR REACTION: GOE DISPLEASED WITH THE U.S., ACTIVISTS 
CRITICIZE THE GOE 
 
REF: 10 CAIRO 187; 09 CAIRO 2395; 09 CAIRO 2277; 09 CAIRO 1948 
09 CAIRO 1433 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Margaret Scobey, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D) 
 
1. KEY POINTS 
 
 
 
-- (C) GOE officials, including presidential advisor Soliman Awad, 
expressed displeasure with the number and the tone of U.S. 
recommendations at the February 17 UN Human Rights Council's 
Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Egypt's human rights record. 
 
 
 
-- (C) The MFA noted it had accepted U.S. recommendations to lift 
the State of Emergency and replace it with a counterterrorism law 
guaranteeing civil liberties, and to amend the legal definition of 
torture to be consistent with its obligations under the UN 
Convention Against Torture. 
 
 
 
-- (C) Human rights activists criticized the GOE for "wrongly" 
rejecting U.S. recommendations, and "denying the facts of its human 
rights violations."  Activists said they would follow up with the 
GOE on implementing recommendations although the GOE's commitments 
are non-binding. 
 
 
 
-- (U) In local media coverage, independent outlets reported 
western countries' recommendations for the GOE to improve its human 
rights record, while the pro-government media emphasized GOE 
officials' responses to the recommendations. 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
 
GOE Displeased with U.S. Recommendations 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------------- 
 
 
 
2. (C) On February 24, presidential advisor Soliman Awad expressed 
concern to the Ambassador over the number of U.S. recommendations. 
Awad said the U.S. should focus on principles regarding religious 
freedom, not conversions and proselytizing which "makes Egyptians 
suspicious," he claimed.  MFA Deputy Director for Human Rights Omar 
Shalaby told us the GOE was displeased with both the number and the 
tone of U.S. recommendations, "especially in light of recent 
bilateral cooperation in the UN Human Rights Council."  He said 
that on instruction from the MFA, Ambassador Shoukry had conveyed 
this message to Vice President Biden's staff during a meeting to 
discuss the Vice President's planned upcoming visit to Cairo, and 
the Egyptian Permanent Representative in Geneva had made these 
points to the U.S. Mission.  Shalaby explained that although 
European countries made many of the same recommendations, the GOE 
was "less bothered" because it does not enjoy "the same level of 
cooperation with the Europeans." 
 
 
 
3. (C) Shalaby disputed the U.S. recommendation to eliminate legal 
and bureaucratic restrictions on an individual's choice of 
religion, claiming that the obstacles are practical, not legal.  We 
pushed back, noting court rulings against converts from Islam to 
Christianity.  "The number of recommendations in itself is an 
issue," Shalaby noted, and he said the high number led to GOE 
speculation over U.S. motives.  According to Shalaby, some in the 
GOE wondered whether the U.S. was under "external pressure" to be 
more "hawkish" on human rights in Egypt, or whether the U.S. 
intervention was "retribution" for U.S.-Egyptian differences over 
procedure during the 2009 Israel UPR.  We told Shalaby that the 
recommendations reflect U.S. concern over a broad range of human 
rights issues in Egypt.  (Note:  The MFA's February 18 public 
statement did not mention U.S. recommendations.  The statement 
welcomed the UPR process as an opportunity to demonstrate "Egypt's 
human rights progress," and rejected recommendations "by a few 
 
CAIRO 00000253  002 OF 003 
 
 
western countries" on "issues related to homosexuals," and marriage 
and divorce.  End note.) 
 
 
 
------------------------------------------- 
 
"Healthy Aspects to the Process" 
 
------------------------------------------- 
 
 
 
4. (C) Shalaby said the GOE believed it had accepted some important 
recommendations, such as those by the U.S. to replace the State of 
Emergency with a counterterrorism law guaranteeing civil liberties, 
and to ensure the legal definition of torture conforms with its 
obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture.  He also noted 
the GOE accepted recommendations to combat religious 
discrimination.  Shalaby was pleased with GOE interactions with 
Egyptian civil society during the UPR, saying that Parliamentary 
Affairs Minister Mufeed Shehab met twice with NGOs in Geneva. 
 
 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
Activists Critical of GOE Performance 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
 
 
5. (C) Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Director Hossam 
Bahgat who attended the UPR assessed that the GOE delegation was 
"very weak on substance."  According to Bahgat, the GOE was "wrong" 
in rejecting as inaccurate U.S. recommendations on arrests of 
activists under the Emergency Law, and restrictions on choosing 
religion.  Bahgat wished the U.S. had explicitly noted GOE arrests 
of Muslim Brotherhood members.  Cairo Institute for Human Rights 
Studies Director Moataz El-Feigery criticized the GOE for "denying 
facts," and demonstrating a lack of political will.  He was 
pessimistic that the GOE would implement recommendations. 
El-Feigery believed Egyptian NGOs were able to successfully 
influence western countries' recommendations.  He welcomed western 
countries' recommendations, but would have liked more discussion of 
GOE legal restrictions on presidential candidates (ref B details 
these restrictions). 
 
 
 
6. (C) Human Rights lawyer Nasser Amin who attended the UPR called 
Arab League and Organization of the Islamic Conference support for 
Egypt "absurd."  He believed these interventions were coordinated, 
due to their similarity in heaping praise on superficial GOE 
efforts.  Amin said Minister Shehab told NGOs privately that he 
wanted to "open a new page with civil society," but Amin criticized 
Shehab for not "seriously addressing" the issues during the UPR 
session.  President of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights 
Hafez Abu Seada said he will press the GOE to implement the 
recommendations it accepted, especially on amending the legal 
definition of torture.  Abu Seada, who is also a member of the 
quasi-governmental National Council for Human Rights, told us he 
asked Minister Shehab to involve civil society in implementing the 
recommendations. 
 
 
 
----------------------------- 
 
Local Media Coverage 
 
----------------------------- 
 
 
 
7. (SBU) The Egyptian media covered the UPR session and its 
aftermath in news stories, but provided little analytical 
commentary.  The independent print press focused its reporting on 
western countries' recommendations, while the pro-government media 
covered the GOE's responses to the recommendations.  A popular 
satellite television talk show aired comments from activists and 
opposition politicians criticizing the GOE for not engaging more 
 
CAIRO 00000253  003 OF 003 
 
 
with civil society in advance of the UPR, and for violating 
Egyptians' human rights.  Pro-government paper "Rose El-Youssef," 
which is close to the Interior Ministry, reported Minister Shehab 
saying Egypt would not accept recommendations conflicting with its 
"social and cultural context."  "Rose El-Youssef" also reported 
that the MFA's February 18 statement rejected recommendations on 
"issues related to homosexuals." 
SCOBEY