It has been reported that a number of arrests took place on 25 June in Egypt, including the case raised by the Deputy. The arrest of journalists is always a matter of concern, given the important role which the media plays in holding governments to account. I believe that a strong and stable democracy cannot flourish without full respect for fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedoms of assembly, association and expression. Ireland actively works to promote and protect the right to these freedoms in the relevant international fora.
At the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which is currently ongoing in Geneva, the EU issued a statement on Human Rights situations that require the Council's attention. Among other issues, the statement refers to the situation in Egypt, recalling the importance of the respect of freedom of expression, media, assembly and association and the need to stop unduly restricting space for civil society, including through arrests and long periods of pre-trial detention.
The EU and Egypt adopted partnership priorities for 2017-2020 at the EU-Egypt Association Council, which took place in July 2017. The priorities make it clear that human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as set out in international human rights law, the Treaty on European Union and the Egyptian Constitution – are a common value and constitute the cornerstone of a modern democratic state. These agreed priorities commit Egypt and the EU to promoting democracy, fundamental freedoms and human rights as constitutional rights of all citizens, in line with their international obligations.
During the seventh EU-Egypt Association Council in December 2018, which is the forum for formal EU-Egypt political dialogue, the EU expressed concern about efforts in Egypt to limit freedom of expression and opinion, including through the arrest and sentencing of journalists and bloggers on anti-state charges. The EU also called on Egypt to adhere to its commitments to promote and protect the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, as well as the freedom of the press and access to information, as guaranteed by the 2014 Constitution and according to Egypt's international obligations.
Ireland conveys these messages to Egypt on a regular basis at political and official levels, including most recently at a meeting between the Egyptian Embassy and the Human Rights Unit in my Department in June. I also discussed human rights with my Egyptian counterpart during his visit to Ireland in February.