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Rule of law must be basis for political resolution: Egypt rights groups

Human rights groups say Muslim Brotherhood has 'inflamed political and ideological polarisation,' urges security forces to protect all citizens regardless of political affiliation

Ahram Online , Wednesday 3 Jul 2013
Views: 2814
Views: 2814

Several rights organisations in Egypt released a statement on Wednesday declaring their respect for the 30 June uprising and urging that law must be the basis for resolving the current political crisis.

The organisations hailed the "overwhelming uprising of the Egyptian people, who on 30 June set out to boldly challenge the political despotism which had taken on a religious guise, in the same way they challenged Mubarak's regime and his police state."

The statement, which criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for what it said had undermined rights and liberties for one political faction in an effort to monopolise state institutions, voiced concern that the group's discourse had "inflamed political and ideological polarisation, stigmatised opponents of their political project as infidels and made them a target for violence" and could disrupt civil peace.

The undersigned also warned against violence to which those participating in the 30 June uprising had resorted to, including attacks on Morsi supporters and Muslim Brotherhood offices. But these violent acts would not have been committed, it added, if the Brotherhood and their allies had not attempted to "suppress their political opponents and were it not for the utter lack of accountability for acts of violence, torture and murder committed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters."

The organisations, which also condemned violence committed by the Brotherhood and incitement against their opponents, urged that "equal standards of justice be applied against all perpetrators of violence regardless of their identity or political affiliations."

The statement stressed that security forces, including the armed forces, had a duty to protect demonstrators and "act decisively" with any person attacking demonstrations regardless of political affiliation.  

The undersigned also demanded that any new roadmap should guarantee civil liberties, especially the freedom to form trade unions and civic associations and freedoms of the press and publication, and demanded that those who killed protesters during the January 25 Revolution be held accountable.

The rights organisations also welcomed the armed forces' stand rejecting a military coup, saying that its stance "should also ensure that the military refrain from taking any action on behalf of the people, even if such action were to be taken in the name of achieving the goals of this new uprising, including liberating the people from the new autocratic regime that has come to power under a religious guise. This must be carried out by civilian forces, which called for the uprising and by the people who responded to this call."

The role of the police and armed forces should be to provide protection to all parties, it stressed.

"The armed forces are meant to take control in times of war, yet in political matters the army must follow the people rather than lead them. This is how the army has conducted itself in recent weeks and how it should continue to act," the statement read.

Several demands were also issued by signatory groups, including:

- The current constitution must be amended by a committee of constitutional and legal scholars and independent human rights experts to reach a new constitution that establishes the foundations of a democratic, civil state; entrenches state impartiality and equality for all citizens regardless of religion, belief, race, ethnicity or gender; guarantees freedom of religion and belief and criminalizes incitement to religious hatred and sectarian violence.

- The same committee to review existing legislation, particularly laws governing the judiciary, trade union freedoms, civic work, and media, press freedoms and electoral laws, as well as the Code of Military Justice in order to put an end to the referral of civilians to military trials.

-  The status of detainees and political prisoners should be reviewed, and all persons found to have not been involved in acts of criminal violence as defined by law should be released.

The undersigned organisations finally called on the Muslim Brotherhood, its Freedom and Justice Party and allied Islamist factions to "show due regard for the civil peace over any narrow political interests and to voluntarily respond to the popular will."

"They must realise that claims to electoral legitimacy and the will of the voters expressed through the ballot box have been rendered meaningless by the fact that the policies and practices pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood for more than a year have breached all democratic principles and failed to fulfil any of the numerous promises made to voters," the statement read.

Rights organisations that signed the statement include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Right Support, the Arab Penal Reform Organisation, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, the Centre for Appropriate Communication Techniques, the Centre for Egyptian Women's Legal Aid, the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights, the Habi Centre for Environmental Rights, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners, the Land Centre for Human Rights, the New Woman Foundation, the Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement and the Federation of NGOs Against Violence Against Women.

Millions have taken to the streets in Egypt since Sunday to demand that President Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, step down. The military, now negotiating with several political figures and parties, said it would announce a statement on Wednesday, which is expected to contain a new roadmap for the coming period. 

Clashes have erupted in several areas around Egypt between opponents and supporters of President Morsi, leaving at least 27 killed and hundreds injured.

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