UN Rights Council Adopts Recommendations on Egypt: Government must ensure prompt implementation and reconsider rejected recommendations

Press Release

19 February 2010

Following the adoption of the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations on Egypt, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) welcomed the fact that the government decided to accept the majority of the recommendations, including many that are related to the worst abuses committed by the government. The EIPR regretted that a number of other equally significant recommendations were rejected directly or because the government considered them “inaccurate and/or factually incorrect.”

Out of a total of 165 recommendations, the Egyptian government accepted 119 recommendations (including many identical or similar ones) rejected 14 recommendations, mistakenly labeled 7 recommendations as “factually incorrect”, and deferred consideration of 25 recommendations to the HRC session in June 2010.

“The government is lying when it describes as “factually incorrect” well-documented abuses such as the use of Emergency Law powers against bloggers and political activists or the impunity granted for perpetrators of sectarian violence,” said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the EIPR who is currently in Geneva to observe the meeting. “We urge the government to support all of the review’s recommendations and establish a participatory and transparent implementation plan that is measurable and time-bound.”

The Egyptian government rejected as “inaccurate” a number of recommendations, including with regards to restriction on the right to choose one’s religion, the use of emergency law against journalists, bloggers, and political activists and the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of violence against minorities.

The government accepted, and therefore is bound to implement, recommendations that include: ensuring that administrative detainees are released or promptly brought to justice; amending the definition of torture in the Penal Code and ensuring the investigation and prosecution of all cases of torture; lifting the state of emergency and ensuring that any new counter-terrorism law complies with international human rights law; ensuring that the use of the death penalty meets the standards of international law; protecting the rights of human rights defenders and amending the NGO law to facilitate the registration and functioning of independent civil society; promoting and protecting freedom of religion and belief and adequately responding to sectarian violence, especially against Copts; ensuring freedom of expression, including for bloggers and other Internet users; and enhancing human rights education and training.

Egypt also accepted a number of recommendations relating to women’s rights, including ending discrimination against women in general and in the workforce; combating violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence; enhancing the presence of women in the judiciary; and considering the withdrawal of reservations that Egypt places on some articles of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Moreover, Egypt accepted all recommendations in the field of economic and social rights, the majority of which appeared to be of a broad and vague nature. These recommendations related to promoting access to health, housing, food, education and social services; eradicating poverty, illiteracy and unemployment; and ensuring the protection of the rights of marginalized and disadvantaged groups.

Egypt also committed itself to protecting the rights of migrants in Egypt and abroad, as well as the rights afforded to refugees under international law. In an indirect reference to the shooting of African migrants attempting to cross the borders to Israel, Egypt has agreed to ensure that the police act with restraint unless they are in danger.   

Recommendations rejected by the government, include the repeal of articles 102 (bis), 179 and 308 of the Penal Code, which are often used to violate the right to freedom of expression. These articles stipulate prison sentences for “circulating false news to disturb public security”, insulting the President of the Republic and “assaulting the honor of families”, respectively. The government also rejected a recommendation to end imprisonment for the “incitement to discrimination” or “assaulting the honor of individuals.” The government further rejected calls to abolish or suspend the use of the death penalty; to invite international election monitoring; to remove references to religious affiliation from identity cards and other official documents; to end discrimination based on sex or gender and stop prosecution on the basis of sexual orientation or consensual sexual behavior; and to amend personal status laws to ensure gender equality in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance. 

Finally, Egypt deferred its decision with regard to a number of recommendations with regard to ending discrimination against Non-Muslims in their right to exercise religious rites, including the issuance of a unified law for the construction and repair of all places of worship; ending imprisonment for Internet users; inviting UN human rights rapporteurs to visit Egypt; ratifying the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court and other UN treaties establishing complaint mechanisms for victims of rights violations; expediting the provision of identity cards and other official documents to Baha’i Egyptians; and establishing an independent elections commission with the representation of all political parties.
The report adopted under the HRC’s Universal Periodic Review includes all recommendations that were presented to the government in the three-hour review held in Geneva on 17 February. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the EIPR are allowed to observe the review but only states are allowed to speak. The final adoption of the review’s report will take place during the regular session of the HRC in June, where NGOs are allowed to present written and oral statements.