In Conjunction with Egypt’s Review of Its Report at the Human Rights Council: Maat Discusses Civil and Political Rights in Egypt
Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights in partnership with Elizka Relief Foundation held, on Wednesday, November 13, 2019, a seminar on civil and political rights in Egypt, on the sidelines of the 34th session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). It coincided with Egypt’s review of its report before the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The speakers of the seminar were; Mr. Ayman Okeil, President of Maat Foundation, Counselor Ayman Fouad, Sherif Abdel Hamid, Director of Research and Studies Unit at Maat, Islam Fawki, Director of Policy Analysis Unit at Mat, Abdul Rahman Pasha, Representative of the Major NGO Group in Africa, and Nourhan Mostafa, Researcher at the International Alliance for Peace and Development. The seminar was moderated by Monica Mina, Executive Director of International Consultations Group.
During the seminar, Okeil pointed out that Egypt had passed several laws on the organization of community action, which imposed a lot of restrictions on the work of civil society organizations, until the promulgation of Law No. 149 of 2019, which is the best of all. Okeil stressed that the most prominent characteristic of this law is the abolition of penalties undermining freedoms as well as the establishment of organizations by notification and consideration of receiving no response from the government in the due date is an approval of funding.
With regard to the right to demonstrate, Okeil praised the amendment to the Protest Law after the Supreme Constitutional Court decided the unconstitutionality of Article 10 that reads: “The interior minister or the security director may authorize a reasoned decision to prohibit or postpone or change the location or route of a public meeting or march or protest.” He also said that the new amendment stipulates “If the interior minister or security chiefs decide that a certain street protest would disrupt public peace… they should inform judicial authorities in advance so that they can decide whether the street protest should be banned, postponed or allowed.” Which is followed in all democratic countries.
Chancellor Ayman Fouad said that the Egyptian Constitution and laws prohibit all forms of torture, intimidation, coercion, and physical or moral injury and, consider them an imprescriptible offence. Fouad pointed out that the State’s continuous and positive efforts in the field of combating torture have led to the decline of this phenomenon as a result of the accounting and trial procedures; dozens of security personnel have been brought to trial in recent years. He added that cases of torture are individual cases, not institutional.
Sherif Abdel Hamid tackled freedom of opinion and expression saying that during the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in November 2014, the government received 11 recommendations related to the protection of freedom of expression. Abdel Hamid stressed that the Constitution stipulates that all forms of freedom of opinion, expression and creativity, freedom of the press and freedom of media are guaranteed, and censorship of newspapers and media is prohibited. He added “All cases of closure of newspapers and sites were contrary to the rules and laws and were decisions by competent authority.”
Islam Fawki stressed that political participation and periodic elections are one of the most critical principles of democracy and are a good indicator of a country’s democratic process. While Egypt has witnessed regularity in the election process, it has witnessed various fluctuations in the indicators of political participation, especially in parliamentary elections, which have fallen by almost half. He also praised the role of the National Elections Commission in the independent administration and management of all elections and referendums, which contributes to enhance the integrity and impartiality of the elections.
Abdul Rahman Pasha pointed out that parties in Egypt have been declining over the past four years due to their inability to mobilize or prepare party cadres and to have reliable candidates have the capability to win regardless of their agreement with the party’s ideology. He recommended that it is necessary of reviving party life in the coming period, and promulgating laws that dissolve parties that do not obtain parliamentary seats in two consecutive sessions, which is in place all over the world, pushing the parties to a permanent presence on the ground.
Nourhan Mustafa said that the Egyptian government has worked on the political and economic empowerment of women in recent years. women won 90 seats in the Parliament, which is a significant percentage of more than 15%. There are also 8 women ministers in the current government. Women also held the position of governor for the first time.
At the end of the seminar, Monica Mina tackled the rights of minorities in Egypt saying that Church Construction Law provides for the formation of a committee to regularize churches within a period of time, which already had been implemented, as many churches were reconciled.
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