Reflections on the National Dialogue from a human rights lens

Saeed Abd El Hafez
Tuesday 5 Jul 2022

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi initiated a call for wide-ranging national dialogue among a multiplicity of political, social, and economic actors in April’s Ramadan Family Iftar Banquet.

 

Such a call is a response to complexities imposed by international crises; on top of which is the Russian–Ukrainian War and its economic drawbacks, which affected most of the globe.

Egypt, I believe, through the anticipated dialogue, is primarily attempting to maintain its sovereignty, institutions, and utilities while seeking to secure itself a place under the sun of the newly emerging world as a regional major player.

A fleeting glimpse into responses to the president’s call shows it has stirred interests and interactions, along with a strong will to participate. 

At the core of the dialogue lies common consensus on means to safeguard human rights in Egypt while setting the stage for a decent non-discriminatory life for all citizens under overarching democratic legislations to further protect human rights.

Notwithstanding the remarkable success of the state in overcoming a plenitude of challenges throughout the last decade — most importantly succeeding in ending chaos and eradicating terrorism — pre-trial detention remains a matter of huge concern that, in my view, needs to be granted ample time of the dialogue’s agenda.

A human rights approach to settle that matter seems to be simple and direct — a thorough legislative review of certain provisions in a number of laws, such as Law No. 94 of 2015, which is known as the Anti-Terrorism Law; Law No. 14 of 2020 amending Law No. 8 of 2015 on Regulating Lists of Terrorist Entities and Terrorists; as well as Law No. 15 of 2020 amending Law No. 94 of 2015.

Moreover, there must be consideration of amending the Criminal Procedures Code’s articles on pre-trial limits.

Such laws and regulations have exceptionally been enacted in times when Egypt and its institutions were under fierce terrorist attacks. Yet, given the current state of security and stability, abolishing particular terms of the mentioned laws may ensure the immediate release of a large number of pre-trial detainees; and there will be no need for President El-Sisi to personally grant them a presidential pardon. 

Furthermore, climate change and its impact on the enjoyment of the right to health is yet another major concern for human rights activists in Egypt. Climate changes directly affects citizens’ basic enjoyment of their economic and social rights.

Extreme weather and temperatures in Egypt impact crop yields and undermine livestock, leading to rising production costs and, ultimately, soaring food prices.

Likewise, air pollution and outbreaks of vector-borne diseases, as well as increased hot-weather-related morbidities and mortalities shall negatively and directly impact citizens’ enjoyment of their right to health and might trigger waves of displacement due to a scarcity in resources.

Egypt’s National Dialogue is an ample opportunity for human rights activists in Egypt to exchange their views and ideas for the future from a human-rights lens and on the grounds of international instruments and charters. More importantly, the dialogue shall support Egypt’s determined and steadfast transition into the newly emerging world.

* Saeed Abd El Hafez is the head of the Forum for Development and Human Rights Dialogue.

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