Egypt: Human Rights

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th May 2016.

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Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 12:00 am, 24th May 2016

What discussions he has had with his Egyptian counterpart on the human rights situation in that country.

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights concerns with our Egyptian counterparts. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister discussed these issues with President Sisi during his visit to the UK in November. I regularly raise our concerns with the Egyptian ambassador, most recently on 17 May.

Photo of Alistair Carmichael Alistair Carmichael Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Ibrahim Halawa, an Irish national who has been in custody now for 1,000 days, faces a possible death penalty for being caught up in a pro-democracy demonstration. He is just one person in a concerted crackdown by Egyptian authorities against those who defend human rights. Will the Minister make every effort, when speaking to the Egyptian Government, to impress on them the view that we hold, which is that this is unacceptable?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

If I may, Mr Speaker, I would like to pay my condolences on the loss of aircraft EgyptAir MS804, yet another disaster for Egypt. The whole House will want to share their thoughts and prayers.

Tourism is very important for Egypt. The right hon. Gentleman touches on freedom of expression, and people will be watching Egypt carefully. I raised the matter of Ahmed Abdullah when I met the ambassador on 17 May. I will continue to press for greater freedom of expression in Egypt.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

I share the condolences expressed by the Minister.

Human rights in Egypt are deteriorating rapidly. Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge University student, was tortured and killed in Egypt while conducting academic research. This happened during the British-Egyptian year of academic co-operation. Does the Minister accept that killing an academic marks a fundamental attack on academic freedom? Will the Minister explain why the murder of a British-based academic was not raised by the Prime Minister’s special envoy on a visit to specifically discuss academic co-operation?

Photo of Tobias Ellwood Tobias Ellwood The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

We debated these matters in detail in a very productive Westminster Hall debate. The hon. Lady will be aware, as will the House, that Giulio Regeni was an Italian citizen and that therefore it is appropriate and right that the Italians take the lead. We have worked closely with, and provided support to, the Italians as they have pursued the matter, however, and have raised it with Egyptian officials as well.