UN Religious Freedom Investigator Requests Visit to Egypt

Press Release

27 October 2005

Government Should Grant Immediate Access

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) today welcomed the announcement that the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief has requested permission to conduct a visit to Egypt. The organization urged the Egyptian government to grant her immediate access.
The UN announced this week that the Special Rapporteur submitted the request to the Egyptian government in order to study the situation of religious freedoms in the country and present recommendations to the government on how to further promote and protect freedom of religion and belief.

"The recent sectarian incidents in Alexandria brought to the forefront the government's need to take urgent and concrete measures to deal with the root causes of increasing sectarian tensions and other religious freedom issues," said Hossam Bahgat, Director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. "The Special Rapporteur's visit and her ensuing report will assist the government significantly in this regard."

The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief was established by the UN in 1986. Ms. Asma Jahangir, a prominent Pakistani lawyer and distinguished legal expert, was appointed to the position in 2004. Special rapporteurs work as independent experts on a voluntary basis and submit annual reports to the UN on their respective mandates. Ms. Jahangir's latest report, submitted this month to the UN General Assembly, deals with the issues of conversion and the religious rights of detainees.

"The government should accept every sincere effort and advice at the moment to deal with its record of religious freedoms' violations. The response to the Special Rapporteur's visit request will be a litmus test of how serious the government is in addressing this important subject."