Egypt's National Council for Human Rights says new law 'cements its independence'

Ahram Online , Tuesday 8 Aug 2017

National Council For Human Rights
Egypt National Council for Human Rights (Photo:Ahram)

Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) issued a statement on Tuesday praising a new law regulating a re-forming of the NCHR, saying it grants the organisation the independence necessary to do its job.

"The law helps the council play its role in an impartial and independent manner as well as maintain its international standing," the NCHR said.

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi issued a decree on Monday amending some laws and provisions organising the re-formation of the NCHR.

The new law was presented by the government before it was approved by the parliament in July.

The first article of the law, published in the official gazette on Monday, says that the NCHR, first established in 2003, is an independent council that aims to promote, maintain and protect human rights and public freedoms in accordance with the constitution and international conventions.

According to the new law, the council shall be formed of 25 members, in addition to its president and vice president, for four-year terms instead of three years as stated in the previous version of the law.

The new law also grants members of the council the right to visit health institutions and prisons and interview inmates to ensure their rights are preserved.

Although this duty was previously carried out by members of the council, the previous version of the law did not explicitly grant this right. 

The new law also grants both the president and parliament the right to convene the council, whereas previously only the president was granted this right.

The law also grants the parliament speaker and the prime minister the right to refer to parliament any issues related to the NCHR.

The law states that members of the council shall comprise public figures with experience and interest in human rights issues, including professors in constitutional law from an Egyptian university. The law says that members shall not be appointed for two consecutive terms.

The new law also states that parliament must approve the formation of the council, and do its best to see that its members represent different segments of society.

Parliament shall be tasked with selecting the president of the council and his deputy with a majority vote.

The council is tasked with presenting an annual report to the president, parliament and the cabinet on the human rights situation, its efforts and activities, as well as present proposals.

The law also puts in place an independent budget for the council to be monitored by the Accountability State Authority.

NCHR Vice President Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr has said that according to the new law, the council should be formed within 30 days of the final approval of the law, and that the formation will be approved by parliament’s General Committee.

Shukr has said that parliament will task professional unions, human rights organisations, and universities with nominating members for the council.

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