UPR: Egyptian government Vs NGOs

UPR: Egyptian government Vs NGOs

In contradiction to the reality, Arab delegations in the National Human rights Council (NHRC) from each KSA, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Palestine, AUE, Kuwait, Tunisia and Syria praised the efforts of the Egyptian government in the promotion and protection of Human rights.

Ikhwanweb while following the Universal Periodic Review of Egypt over the past four years, the deleagates of arab countries overlooked a number of key issues such as “the Emergency Law”, “torture”, “civil and political rights” while it concentrated on other issued such as involving women in the public and political work, rights of child, integrating the disabled in the work system and literacy.

Delegations praised the work of the Egyptian government in these fields and its recommendations were limited to supporting Egypt and encouraging it to continue developing in these fields.

USA, France, Germany Australia, Canada, Norway and other western countries severly criticized the policies of the government regarding torture and the continued work with the emergency law, prison conditions and lack of free and fair elections in addition to refering officers accused of torture to the judiciary and strengthening the role of civil society.

Furthemore, Australia called for urgent investigations with regards to refering civilans to military courts and international monitoring over the upcoming legislative and presidential elections while Canada called for giving freedom to bloggers. 

French ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattei told the UN Human Rights Council said “The state of emergency, which is in force since 1981, has a negative impact on human rights,” it should be lifted “as swiftly as possible,”. Similar statements by Britain, Germany, Netherlands and the US were repeated.

Minister of State for Legal Affairs and Parliamentary Councils Mufid Shehab said the Egyptian government is paying attention to human rights issues and that it is taking steps to enhance them for Egyptians.

In his answer to the questions on the report regarding the state of Emergency he allegedly stated that it is only enforced to combat terrorism and it has never breached, hindered or even amended any legal or constitutional text.

He also stressed that Cairo had pledged to lift the state of emergency once new legislation on terrorism and drug trafficking was adopted.

On the arrest of several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which Human Rights Watch (HRW)commented saying that it is “a crackdown that is typical of election years.” Shehab said “the military judiciary is an independent body which applies the ordinary criminal law and very few cases were referred to it and its rulings can be appealed against” as he put it.

Since the MB was founded in 1928, the government had been accusing them of seeking to topple the government, the thing which was always denied by the MB.

On the non-accession of Egypt to the Second Optional Protocol Against Torture, Shehab stated that one of the Protocol’s requirements is sudden visits of its committee to prisons, police stations and places of detention which is rejected by the Egyptian law and could be limited to the General Prosecution only. 

According to HRW, between 5,000 to 10,000 citizens are held without charge.

He also stressed that the government is currently studying the amendment of the law of NGOs which would give it more independency. He attributed the incidents of sectarian tension between Muslims and Copts to the excessiveness of the followers of the two religions.

Britain urged the Egyptian government to change the laws of freedom of expression, assembly and religion prior to the elections. 

For their parts, representatives of Egyptian human rights organizations criticized the report. According to Ayman Akeel stressed that the delegation of the government did not respond to the recommendations of the human rights organizations unlike what Shehab said that it was taken into consideration while writing the report.

Hany Helal, human rights activist, criticized the government for succeeding to hinder the UPR mechanism and for using terms such as “we will work on” and “we will study”.

The delegation of the National Council for Human Rights did not play any role before and during the discussion of the report. In fact it was a part of the governmental delgation according to Yasser Abdel Gawwad.

He added that the review is not over yet and is pending the troika of the International Council on Human Rights’  meeting to combine the commitments of the govenment and the recommendations of the member states of the Council. In addition to this, Egyptian human rights organizations and the National Council for Human Rights will be preparing a report to be adopted by Egypt next July.

According to Safwat el-Sherif, Shura Council SpeakerNCHR is an independent organization that issues its recommendations on human rights issues to government ministries and institutions “according to established legal standards, international treaties on human rights, and the Egyptian Constitution.”