Human rights not high on Morsi's agenda, says rights report

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 15 Oct 2012

Institute for Human Rights Studies says Morsi took some positive steps on human rights but is not focused enough on issues; lists 'failures' on handling sectarian violence and freedom of expression

Human rights not on Morsi
Egyptian riot police beat protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo in August, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

A report released by a prominent Cairo-based human rights organisation on President Mohamed Morsi's first 100 days in office argues that human rights have not yet become a serious part of Morsi's strategy.

The report, released by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) on Monday, says the president does not have a clear vision on human rights issues.

CIHRS says human rights were not included in his initial 100-day plan, and he did not pay attention to initiatives raised to address the topic, including a 100-day plan that was presented to him by the Forum of Independent Human Rights Organisations on his first day in office.

"The limited positive steps that were taken [by Morsi] in the field of human rights came either as a result of wide popular pressure, or to avoid embarrassment. These steps did not reflect a well-studied, inclusive plan to improve the status of human rights," argues the report.

The report lists four main measures as positive steps: Morsi's decision to form a committee that looks into the cases of arbitrary detainees, which as stated by the report led to the release of several hundred from military and police prisons; the presidential amnesty, which resulted in the release of more detainees; the fact-finding committee Morsi formed to reinvestigate the incidents of violent crackdown on peaceful protests; and the prohibition of the detainment of journalists pending investigation, in any lawsuit where they are accused of insulting the president.

The report describes pressures applied on the media during Morsi's tenure by the part of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and calls them part of the "emergence of new hegemony mechanisms" reminiscent of Mubarak's authoritarian National Democratic Party.

The report also condemned Morsi's government in its dealing with non-governmental organisations and workers' unions, arguing that Morsi's administration is continuing Mubarak-regime tactics of hindering their work by describing workers' strikes as "special interest" acts that get in the way of the country's economic development.

The report also stated that during the first 100 days of Morsi's tenure, 39 workers union leaders were dismissed from work and 32 others were referred to investigation for striking. Five union members were also sentenced to five year prison terms, and dozens of workers who partook in strikes were referred to administrative investigation.

The report also criticised the way Morsi's administration handled issues relating to sectarian crises, listing a number of incidents related to the forced migration of Coptic families and the arrests of Coptic citizens for allegedly defaming Islam.

The report also denounced Morsi's government for not implementing preliminary measures before discussing long-term strategies in the process of reforming the police, citing several incidents of arbitrary kidnapping and torture carried out by security forces under Morsi's presidency.

The report also recommended that Morsi implement the international agreements that Egypt has ratified, and issue specific laws which aim at putting an end to Mubarak era's laws that were detrimental to various aspects of human rights.

Before Morsi took power in late June, he announced a short-term plan for his first 100 days in office addressing issues of security, subsidised bread, garbage removal, traffic and gas.

As Morsi's first one hundred days concluded last week, he has been criticised by several human rights and development organizations who released documented reports arguing he has failed to deliver on his promises.

Morsi was officially sworn-in on 30 June.

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