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UN rights official urges Egypt's Morsi to reconsider divisive decree

Navi Pillay, UN high commissioner for human rights, calls on Egypt's president Morsi to reconsider last week's constitutional declaration, warns against potentially 'divisive' draft constitution

Ahram Online, Friday 30 Nov 2012
Navi Pillay
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay (Photo: Reuters)
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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has urged Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to reconsider the constitutional declaration issued last week, saying a number of measures contained in it were incompatible with international human rights law. She further warned that approving a constitution under these circumstances could be a deeply divisive move.

In a letter addressed to the Egyptian president on Tuesday, the high commissioner noted the efforts made so far, since successful presidential elections this summer, “in combating human rights violations, countering impunity and ensuring transparency and accountability at all levels."

Pillay, however, denounced the highly controversial constitutional declaration Morsi issued on 22 November, which shields his decisions – and the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly and upper house of parliament – from judicial challenge.

”In my view, this provision contravenes the fundamental notion of the rule of law by placing the president’s actions outside judicial scrutiny and not permitting any legal challenge, irrespective of its substance," Pillay said, describing it as an "encroachment on the role of the judiciary."

Pillay urged Morsi to reconsider the declaration so that the problems it was designed to address can be confronted by measures "in conformity with international human rights principles."

The high commissioner also commented on concerns about the composition of the Constituent Assembly, noting that, "Any proper constitution-making process must include adequate representation of the full political spectrum, men and women, minorities, and civil society, which was not seen to be the case with this Constituent Assembly."  

She added that the constitutional declaration opened the door to violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, especially the right to access justice and guarantees of judicial independence.

Pillay's message to Morsi came on the same day in which tens of thousands of demonstrators protested the constitutional declaration and the Constituent Assembly, which voted on the draft constitution Thursday despite the withdrawal of some one third of its members.

The United Nations, United States and European Union have all expressed concern over the constitutional declaration.

Rival demonstrations have erupted across the country since the announcement of the divisive declaration. Two protesters were killed in the past week in clashes that ensued between protesters and police and others between Morsi's supporters and opponents.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Nour Party, along with the Gamaa Islamiya, have announced plans to stage demonstrations on Saturday in support of Morsi and his decree.

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