An Egyptian Human Rights Rebuke, to America


It is not unusual for American politicians and the State Department to call out other nations of the world for their violation of human rights.

But the past few weeks have given other nations an excuse to hit back. Laugh or cry, here is a selection of Egyptian statements about our racial issues and the UK Chilcot report on the Iraq War.

MP Margaret Azer, deputy ‎chairman of Egypt parliament’s human rights ‎committee, said in a statement that she was appalled by ‎the brutality of American police.

“I think that all ‎Egyptian MPs and defenders of human rights should ‎move to condemn the repeated brutal use of force ‎against black Americans and expose the bloody face of ‎the United States and its politicised use of the issue of ‎human rights to extort other nations,” said Azer.‎

Azer’s statement added that “the United States, which likes to ‎give lectures on human rights to other nations and issue ‎periodical reports on civil liberties in the world, was ‎caught red handed violating human rights and crushing ‎the peaceful protests of black Americans in the city of ‎Dallas and other US cities.”‎

Ilhami Agina, an independent MP and a member of ‎parliament’s human rights committee, also said in ‎a statement that “the excessive use of force ‎against black Americans in the US has exposed the ugly ‎face of Western regimes and that these ‎regimes are deeply involved in wide scale racial ‎discrimination.”

“[US President Barack] Obama, who came to Cairo in 2009 to ‎give us a long lecture on human rights, might have ‎forgotten that it is America that needs radical reform,” ‎said Agina.‎

Agina told reporters that he sent a letter to Egypt’s ‎foreign minister Sameh Shoukry asking him to summon ‎the US ambassador in Egypt – Stephen Beecroft – to ‎convey Egypt’s dissatisfaction with the excessive use of ‎force against blacks and urge the American ‎government to reform its record on human rights.

“Egypt is ‎now the head of the Arab summit and so it should give a ‎say on what happens in America, but if Shoukry does ‎not opt to do this, he should at least do as the US State ‎Department, which always grants itself the right to ‎comment on judicial and political issues in Egypt,” said ‎Agina.‎

Ayman Abu Ela, the parliamentary ‎spokesman of the Free Egyptians Party, told reporters ‎that he also hopes that Egypt’s parliament will hold a ‎session on America’s violations of human rights.

“The US ‎administration and media, which have always accused ‎Egypt of issuing a tough protest law have nothing to say ‎now about their police brutality against black protesters,” ‎said Abul Ela, also agreeing with other MPs that “the ‎recent incidents of excessive force and police ‎brutality in America have uncovered the falseness of ‎American democracy and its flawed reports about ‎human rights in the Arab world.”

Perhaps most US criticism of other nations means as little as these statements above in the practical rebuke and correction of abuses. Perhaps they reveal how indicative of the domestic political context each remark is made, rather than impact on international relations.

But sometimes, human rights abuses do result in international censure. Here is the Egyptian appeal:

The Egyptian parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs called on Friday for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to be tried as war criminals, saying the resounding report of a British committee investigating Britain’s participation in the war against Iraq clearly shows that there were no convincing reasons for the conflict.

“This British committee’s report – the Chilcot report – has exposed the false reasons which former US president George W. Bush and former UK prime minister Tony Blair had exploited to wage their illegitimate war against Iraq,” said the strongly-worded statement.

The parliament said that the American-led war in Iraq left more than one million Iraqis killed and millions more wounded, internally displaced or sent from their homes as refugees.

“There’s no question that George W. Bush and Tony Blair should be put on trial as war criminals not only because they are the ones who trumpeted the reasons for this war, but also because they should be held responsible for the deaths of millions of Iraqis since 2003,” the statement read.

Human rights – and their defense – are vitally important. Too important, in fact, to be left to politicians anywhere.

But without them, progress will always be limited. Empty rhetoric may be part of politics, but rhetoric sets a tone. The world is a better place even if politicians give only hypocritical lip service to human rights. Their conscience can always awaken. If so, laws and policies can change, however gradually.

Consider the alternative, if human rights are outright ignored or justified away. Sometimes, in many nations, this alternative is all too near.