CAIRO: Eighteen Egyptian human rights groups have condemned the government’s decision to prevent the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) from participating in a United Nations meeting on HIV and AIDS.
The UN General Assembly High Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV/AIDS will take place on June 10 to 11 in New York.
During the HLM government representatives and civil society participants will review progress made in the implementation of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the 2006 Political Declaration on AIDS.
Rules concerning the participation of civil society groups in the HLM allow Member States to veto nominated groups put forward by the President of the General Assembly.
“The government’s attempt to prevent an Egyptian rights organization from participating in an international meeting is a disturbing escalation of the atmosphere of harassment and restrictions targeting independent human rights organizations, the groups said in the statement.
The statement places the government’s decision to veto EIPR’s participation in the context of “repeated violations of the freedom of association.
It pointed to an inadequate investigation of the recent physical assault of the director of the Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Violence and an “increasing number of interventions by security agencies to prevent conferences and other public activities by human rights groups.
While EIPR has so far not received a response to its letter to the government requesting an explanation for the decision, EIPR’s Deputy Director Soha Abdel Atty told Daily News Egypt that she suspects that it may be attributable to EIPR’s high-profile advocacy for the rights of those living with HIV.
“EIPR has been very active in the issue of the recent HIV-related arrests, Abdel Atty said.
In May, a Cairo appeals court upheld the prison sentences handed down to five HIV positive men convicted of “habitual practices of debauchery.
The men were arrested as part of a crackdown targeting men with HIV.
“In addition, EIPR attended the last HLM on AIDS in 2006 and wrote a public letter to the Egyptian government after the meeting criticizing the destructive stance taken by the Egyptian delegation during the meeting.