Egypt on Tuesday voiced outrage at the new UN rights chief’s assertions that 75 death sentences confirmed by an Egyptian court at the weekend were based on an “unfair trial” and should be reversed.
The sentences had initially been handed down in July over clashes in 2013 between security forces and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Saturday’s ruling confirming the sentences prompted Michelle Bachelet to issue a statement less than a week after taking the job as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in which she decried “the evident disregard of basic rights of the accused”.
This, she warned, “places the guilt of all those convicted in serious doubt.” She added that if the mass death sentences were carried out it would mark “a gross and irreversible miscarriage of justice.”
Speaking before the UN Human Rights Council, Egypt’s ambassador to the UN Alaa Youseef on Tuesday took issue with Bachelet’s comments.
“I originally had the intention to take to floor to welcome your first appearance before the Human Rights Council as the High Commissioner,” he said, adding that instead he found himself “obliged to reply to the false allegations contained in your statement.”
“It is indeed disappointing to see you misguidedly starting on the wrong foot, and falling prey to the pseudo-arguments propagated by certain well-known groups that share malicious political agendas and interests,” he said.
Youseef objected in particular to Bachelet’s harsh criticism of Egypt’s judiciary and her concern over the numerous mass trials that have taken place in Egypt since the overthrow of Morsi’s government in July 2013.
In the latest case, some 739 defendants were tried together, most of them charged with killing police and vandalising property. Nearly 350 were given 15-year sentences and another 47 jailed for life.
“The reference in your statement to the Egyptian judiciary and its decisions is totally and unequivocally rejected,” Youseef said, insisting her comments had been “based on erroneous information and hearsay.”
“You are strongly advised to … seek more credible sources of information in the future.”