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THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
THE ROLE OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
In January, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child considered Egypt’s second periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It welcomed improvements to infant and child mortality rates, but noted
Tuesday, June 19,2007 10:10
by United Nations Democrati.net

In January, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child considered Egypt’s

second periodic report on the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of

the Child. It welcomed improvements to infant and child mortality rates, but noted

that “narrow interpretations of Islamic texts by authorities, particularly in areas

relating to family law, are impeding the enjoyment of some human rights under the

Convention.”The committee criticized continued violations of children’s rights to

healthcare and education, conditions for juvenile detainees, inadequate safeguards

against physical or sexual abuse of children, and economic exploitation. Among

other things, the committee recommended implementation of the 1996 Children’s

Code and the systematic involvement of “civil society, especially children’s associations

and advocacy groups, throughout all stages of the implementation of the

Convention, including policy-making.”

In January also, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination

against Women considered Egypt’s third, fourth, and fifth reports on its application

of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against

Women. The committee welcomed the reduction in female illiteracy rates and legislative

reforms aimed at eliminating discrimination against women, particularly

relating to divorce rights. However, it criticized other discriminatory laws, including

the Nationality Law which bars Egyptian women married to non-Egyptians

from passing on their nationality to their children, and certain provisions of the

penal code. The committee recommended legislative reforms in these areas, and

greater efforts by the authorities to prevent violence against women, including

domestic violence, marital rape, abuses against detained women, and female genital

mutilation.

In August, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

considered Egypt’s most recent reports on its implementation of the Convention

on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The committee noted

420 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WORLD REPORT 2002

the “significant role” of the Supreme Constitutional Court in “upholding human

rights and constitutional guarantees . . . as well as the prevention and elimination

of discrimination”but criticized the absence of legal provisions establishing that an

ethnic or racial motivation for defamation or acts of violence be considered an

aggravating factor. The committee also expressed concern about the discriminatory

provisions of the Nationality Law, noting the government’s promise to revise

it, and recommended speedy resolution of the “difficulties relating to the registration

of some non-governmental organizations dealing with the promotion and

protection of human rights,” particularly those working to combat racial discrimination.

The U.N. special rapporteur on torture, in his report to the Commission on

Human Rights published on January 25, concluded that “torture is systematically

practised by the security forces in Egypt, in particular by State Security Intelligence,”

and that despite government denials, the practice is “habitual, widespread

and deliberate in at least a considerable part of the country.”The special rapporteur

cited thirty-five cases of torture and thirty-two cases of death in custody reportedly

caused by torture or medical negligence that were transmitted to the government

between 1997 and 1999, to which the government replied in March and October

2000. He expressed particular concern at “the persistence of the explanation of

death in many of the cases as being ‘a sharp drop in blood pressure,’”and stated that

the government’s responses reinforced rather than alleviated his concerns. The

special rapporteur also criticized the government’s continuing failure to permit

him access to the country.

On May 25, the U.N. special representative on human rights defenders and the

special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers issued a joint statement

of concern about the conviction of Saadeddin Ibrahim and his co-defendants

following unfair trial procedures. They commented that “the conviction of these

members of civil society for their human rights activities will have a chilling effect

on the activities of other human rights defenders in Egypt,” and called for the

release of the defendants pending their appeal hearing.

European Union

On December 13, 2000, the European Commission (E.C.) issued a statement

concerning the charges levelled against Saadeddin Ibrahim and some of his codefendants

that they had misused E.C. funding of two projects administered by the

Ibn Khaldun Center and the Hoda Association.The projects, for which the E.C. had

provided a total of 315,000 euro, involved the promotion of voter education and the

exercise of political rights. The E.C. stated that “both the Ibn Khaldun and HODA

projects were the subject of external mid-term audits whose reports gave no cause

for concern, financial or otherwise.” On May 23, a spokesman for External Affairs

Commissioner Chris Patten expressed concern about the sentences passed on the

defendants in the case, and said that while E.U. aid to Egypt had not been suspended,

it was “encountering certain difficulties in its implementation.” On June

14, the European Parliament passed a resolution expressing concern about the verdict

and calling for Ibrahim “to be assured a fair trial,” expressing its support for the

Egypt 421

Ibn Khaldun Center and calling on the E.C. “to continue to support its initiatives.”

With reference to the case of Ibrahim and that of Nawal al-Sa’dawi, the resolution

called on the E.C. “to strengthen its MEDA programme for democracy, in cooperation

with the Egyptian authorities, in particular with a view to supporting freedom

of expression and the independence of the media.”

The Association Agreement between Egypt and the E.U.,which had been under

negotiation for over five years, was initialled by the two sides on January 26 and

signed on June 25. The agreement, which enters into force after ratification by the

parliaments of Egypt and of E.U. member states, covers economic, political, security,

and social relations between the two sides. Following the signing of the agreement,

Commissioner Patten stated that the “partnership is firmly based on shared

political and economic interests as well as a joint commitment for the promotion

of democracy and the respect of human rights.” He added that the human rights

provisions in the agreement would provide a framework within which human

rights issues would be raised with the Egyptian authorities.

United States

The U.S. maintained the previous year’s levels of foreign aid to Egypt, with the

Bush administration requesting for fiscal year 2002 an estimated U.S. $1.3 billion

for military assistance and U.S. $655 million for economic support funds. The

administration said military assistance would “support a modern, well-trained

Egyptian military that will help ensure stability in the region”and “enable Egypt to

participate as a coalition partner in operations that further U.S. interests.” Of the

funds requested for economic assistance, an estimated 14 percent was earmarked

for “programs meant to reduce the fertility rate, improve health care, support

democratic institutions and increase access to schooling for girls.”

Following the conviction and sentencing of Saadeddin Ibrahim and his codefendants,

a State Department spokesman said in a press briefing on May 21 that

“we are deeply troubled about the outcome, and . . . we have been expressing all

along our concerns about the process that resulted in this sentence.”U.S. embassy

staff in Cairo had observed the trial and visited Ibrahim, who held dual Egyptian-

U.S. citizenship, in Mazra’at Tora prison where he was taken after sentencing.

In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2000, the State Department

said that while the Egyptian government “generally respected the human rights of

its citizens in some areas, . . . its record was poor with respect to freedom of expression

and its treatment of detainees.” It pointed to the government’s use of emergency

laws to restrict “many basic rights,” including freedom of expression,

assembly, and association.

A delegation from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom

visited Egypt from March 20-24 as part of a wider fact-finding tour of the Middle

East. It met with government officials, religious leaders, academics, journalists, and

NGO representatives, but several Egyptian human rights groups declined to cooperate

or assist the delegates. On March 28, the commission urged President George

W. Bush to raise the issue of religious freedoms with President Mubarak during the

latter’s U.S. visit in April. The commission’s detailed findings, released on May 14

422 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH WORLD REPORT 2002

as an addendum to its annual report, concluded that “serious problems of discrimination

against a number of religious groups remain widespread in Egypt,” including

Coptic Christians, Baha’is, and Muslims deemed by the authorities to be

“fundamentalists.

President Mubarak visited Washington, D.C. in the first week of April and held

talks with President Bush, political leaders, and representatives of the business

community. The visit focused on continuing efforts to salvage Israeli-Palestinian

peace negotiations and on economic ties between Egypt and the U.S., with Egypt

calling for a free trade agreement with the U.S.There was no indication that human

rights issues were discussed.

The Bush administration announced in November that an arms deal with Egypt

worth an estimated U.S. $400 million had been reached, and that economic aid to

Egypt would be accelerated to offset the adverse effects which the September 11

attacks on the U.S. were having on the Egyptian economy, notably the tourist

industry. On November 29, a legal assistance treaty between the U.S. and Egypt

came into effect, aimed at increasing cooperation in combatting transnational

crimes, including drug trafficking,money laundering, and “terrorist group financing,”

according to the State Department.

Relevant Human Rights Watch Reports:

Egypt: Underage and Unprotected: Child Labor in Egypt’s Cotton Fields, 1/01

IRAN

HUMAN RIGHTS DEVELOPMENTS

Factional conflict within Iran’s clerical leadership continued to result in severe

restrictions on freedom of expression, association, and political participation.

Deteriorating economic conditions made worse by severe natural disasters contributed

to increasing unrest and a pervasive sense of social insecurity, reflected in

clashes between demonstrators and the security forces and in harsh measures

against drug-traffickers and other criminals. President Mohammad Khatami won

another landslide victory for those associated with the cause of political reform

when he was reelected by 77 percent of voters for a second four-year term in June,

but the power struggle between conservatives and reformists remained unresolved.

Conservative clerics maintained a strong grip on power through the judiciary, the

Council of Guardians and the office of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah

Ali Khamenei.Promises by reformists to increase respect for basic freedoms and

the rule of law remained unrealized, and severe restrictions imposed on the independent

print media, the major visible gain of President Khatami’s first period in

office, remained in place. The judiciary, and branches of the security forces beyond


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