Egyptian rights groups propose changes ahead of UNHRC review

Ahram Online, Sunday 2 Nov 2014

Egypt's human rights situation will be reviewed next week by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva

The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva (File Photo: Reuters)

A dozen local rights groups released a joint statement on Sunday with proposed recommendations for an upcoming review of Egypt's human rights by the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland.

The ‎UNHRC review in ‎Geneva next week will be Egypt's second in four years. The ‎first was made in February 2010.

Highlighting reported rights violations over the past four years, Sunday's statement focused on a dozen recommendations:

1. Amending laws that conflict with international treaties which Egypt has consented to

2. Amending the protest law so that it allows freedom of assembly and strongly restricts the use of live ammunition and excessive and deadly force by law enforcers

3. That the state makes public the findings of the fact finding committees formed in 2011, 2012 and 2013

4. That the state takes necessary measures to hold accountable all violators including police and army personnel who have been involved in sexual violations against female rights activists

5. Drafting legislation that limits all forms of discrimination against women

6. Ending pre-trial detentions that, the statement claims, are used as a means of punishment

7. Amending constitutional article 204 which allows for military trials of civilians

8. That the state should cancel its 10 November ultimatum given to unregistered NGOs and alternatively to allow freedom of association to unregistered groups

9. Cancelling articles in the penal code which allow the criminalisation of the work of rights groups

10. That the state recognises the legitimacy of the role played by rights activists as necessary to the development of democracy and the rule of law

11. Amending the criminal law so that the definition of torture is compatible with its definition in the convention against torture

12. That the Egyptian state agrees to the optional protocol to the convention against torture

The statement also focused its recommendations on freedom of assembly, sexual violence, the independence of the judiciary and the right to a fair trial, the right to form non-governmental organisations, as well as torture, detention and preserving human rights in light of terrorism.

The undersigned include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination and Nazra for Feminist Studies, among others.

Rights groups have widely condemned Egypt's human rights situation in the last four years. Clashes between security forces and opposition groups have left thousands killed and even more injured since the 2011 uprising.

Militant attacks have also increased against security forces, especially after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Meanwhile, a wide crackdown against Morsi loyalists has left thousands in prison, with many facing lengthy prison terms. Hundreds have also received the death penalty.

Several non-Islamist activists have been arrested and face prison sentences under a controversial new protest law issued last year.
Rights groups have also condemned a new NGO law – and an amendment to the penal code governing civil groups – which they say is restrictive and harks a return to the oppressive climate before the 2011 revolt.

Ibrahim El-Heneidy, minister of transitional justice, travelled to Geneva on Sunday as part of a national committee that will be presenting a report on human rights in Egypt.

Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Atty said on Sunday that the committee is finishing the final preparations for the UNHRC. He said the committee has already drafted a report incorporating all recommendations made in the previous review from 2010 and also the plans for future legislative and legal reform.

The committee is composed of Hisham Badr, deputy foreign ‎minister for human rights, Abu Bakr El-Gendy, ‎deputy interior minister for human rights, Mervat ‎Talawy, secretary-general of the National Council for Women, Maha Abdel-Latif, deputy foreign minister for ‎foreign NGOs, and Medhat Bassiouny, deputy justice ‎minister for human rights.

It also includes Mohamed ‎Khallaf, deputy prosecutor-general for international ‎cooperation affairs, and Ashraf Ashmawy, El-Heneidy's ‎advisor for human rights.‎


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