12 organisations commend ‘important positive steps’ to consolidate human rights in Egypt

Ahram Online , Thursday 9 Dec 2021

Twelve human rights organisations signed a statement commending the accomplishments made by Egypt over the past year to consolidate the culture of human rights, especially after ending the state of emergency in October.

Human rights
A photo showing 2021 s Human Rights Day theme that focuses on Equality (Photo courtesy of United Nations)

The statement was signed ahead of International Human Rights Day, which is observed every year on 10 December — the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

“Egypt has witnessed during the past year very important developments in terms of strengthening the path of reforming human rights,” the statement read.

The undersigned organisations also hailed Egypt’s issuance of the National Strategy for Human Rights in September.

The strategy recognises challenges facing the comprehensive implementation of international human rights conventions and highlights the government’s pledge to work with Parliament to resolve them, the statement said.

“A careful reading of the national strategy indicates Egypt’s tendency to build a legislative infrastructure that promotes Egyptian human rights in line with Egypt’s international commitments while adhering to the features of its unique identity and its cultural and religious components,” the organisations said.

The statement also praised Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for designating 2022 as the year of civil society during his launch of the strategy.

This “demonstrates Egypt’s continued openness to cooperation and partnership with civil society organisations and the sustainability of the state of consultation and dialogue between the state and national and international human rights organisations,” the statement added.

Egypt also witnessed progress in terms of youth and women empowerment, as women got more than 28 percent of parliamentary seats in the 2021 elections.

Egyptian women have also taken many judicial and ministerial posts, with eight female ministers representing 25 percent of the incumbent government, the statement said.

Furthermore, the organisations said they have monitored positive indicators and progress in the field of civil and political rights in the country regarding those imprisoned in connection with cases of a political nature.

El-Sisi has pardoned many prisoners on national occasions and holidays under article 155 of the constitution in response to demands from the National Council for Human Rights and human rights organisations, the statement noted.

Since 2015, 56,000 prisoners have been released under presidential amnesty.

This “reflects a new philosophy from the state in dealing with prisoners, and commitment to a new punitive policy based on the idea of a second chance in life and being a part of society for those who are not involved in crimes that affect the security and safety of the country.”

This philosophy also included starting to replace traditional prisons with reform and rehabilitation centres that adhere to international standards, the statement said, referring to the Wadi Al-Natroun Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre that was announced late in October.

The signatory organisations also called for the final closure of Case 173, widely known as the ‘Foreign Funding Case’, which froze the assets of these NGOs and imposed travel bans on its members.

Over the past months, Egypt has dropped the charges levelled against 67 NGOs operating in Egypt in the case that dates back to 2011 over insufficient evidence. The court ruling consequently lifted the sanctions imposed on the exonerated NGOs and their staff members.

The statement called for the start of a “constructive dialogue based on mutual trust” between state institutions and civil organisations.

Additionally, it called for a “comprehensive review of the texts of laws that conflict with international conventions related to human rights, a review of periods of pretrial detention, and the creation of mechanisms to avoid such prolonged periods.”

Egypt has been committed to implementing 300 recommendations requested by the international community and UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner in November 2014, including 246 recommendations related to the human rights file, the statement said.

“Egypt is implementing these pledges voluntarily,” the statement said, affirming that this “reflects the desire of the political administration to implement radical reforms in the human rights file.”

Egypt has also witnessed a breakthrough in economic and social rights since the implementation of the presidential initiative ‘Hayah Karima’ (‘Decent Life’) that seeks to develop Egypt’s countryside.

The initiative, worth more than EGP 900 billion, “responds to solving many crises related to the absence of the right to development for many years,” the statement said.

The project is implemented in partnership between state agencies, civil society, and development and charitable societies.

Signing organisations:

Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights

The Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue

Arab-European Forum for Dialogue and Human Rights

The Arab Network for Digital Media and Human Rights

Arab Council for Human Rights

The Egyptian Association for Training and Human Rights

The Egyptian Alliance for Democracy and Human Rights

Eshraqet Amal for Local Community Development in Giza

Arab Centre for Human Rights

The Arab Institute for Studies on Democracy and Human Rights

Women and Development Association in Alexandria

Horus Association for Youth and Development in Qena

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