From Civil Society Organizations| The Supreme Council of Armed Forces is Urged to Open the Doors for Democratic Transformation and Secure Accountability of the Mubarak Regime

Press Release

1 March 2011

The undersigned Egyptian human rights organizations are closely following the efforts of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as it manages the country’s affairs in this difficult period, during which the council must assume its responsibilities and honor its vows to respond to the demands and aspirations of the Egyptian people as expressed in the January 25 revolution. Additionally, it must face the repercussions of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime and the disintegration and suspicious withdrawal of the security establishment that accompanied it. The Council must also expose and curb the catastrophic consequences of theft, financial and administrative corruption, and the ruination of the country’s political life perpetrated by a broad network of interests, including the office of the presidency, prominent figures of what was previously known as the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), and influential leaders within the parliament and the executive branch.

We realize that the armed forces acted as a pillar of support for the Egyptian revolution, helping to achieve its first goal of the removal of the former president and the dissolution of the People’s Assembly and Shura Council, which were stigmatized and delegitimized by flagrantly fraudulent elections.

Nevertheless, the undersigned organizations feel growing concern about the path being taken in the transitional phase, which should presumably lay the foundation for a democratic, civil state that respects human rights—the overriding goal for which Egyptians made costly sacrifices.

In this context, we make the following observations:

1. Making a clean break with the former dictator's regime required the immediate removal of the government created by him to mislead the people and contain their revolution. Attempts to repair this government with piecemeal changes will not dispel the legitimate fears many people feel about the political survival of certain figures close to the deposed president and cannot so easily shirk their responsibility for both the wide range of crimes committed during Mubarak’s tenure and the criminal misinformation campaigns designed to discredit the goals of the revolution and incite against those who were part of it.

2.  Making a clean break with the policies and crimes of the Mubarak regime, restoring the rule of law, and subordinating state institutions to that law requires more decisive, transparent steps to hold accountable and punish figures responsible for crimes and grave abuses committed under Mubarak’s regime in public and fair trials.

We regret to note that measures taken thus far seem selective and not aimed at establishing a legal system for accountability and punishment or announcing facts to the public. In particular, the undersigned organizations note severe shortcomings, or at the very least an unjustified secrecy, surrounding the measures that must be taken to ensure accountability for major crimes, first and foremost:

a) The identification and prosecution of those responsible for issuing orders to open fire on demonstrators.

b) The identification and prosecution of those responsible for giving the green light to acts of murder and paid thuggery in the name of “loyalty to Mubarak.”

c) Making public the facts surrounding the agencies and persons responsible for the suspicious withdrawal and disappearance of police forces and the release of prisoners and criminals from prisons, which left the country vulnerable to widespread looting and theft..

d) Former Information Minister Anas al-Fiqqi must be prosecuted for his responsibility in managing the media campaigns aimed at misleading public opinion, smearing participants in the popular revolution, and the xenophobic campaign inciting hatred of foreigners.

3. Confirming the legitimacy of the demands of the Egyptian labor movement since 12 February demanding its social and economic rights, the undersigned organizations announce their solidarity with the labor strikes and urge the Supreme Council of Armed forces to:

a) Quickly implement court decisions to set a minimum wage that is truly compatible with prices

b) Quickly transform temporary into permanent labor.

c) Set unemployment benefits

d) Dissolve the board of directors of the Egyptian General Federation of Trade Unions and of the general labor unions, which their elections were held in violation to orders of the administrative courts and the Supreme Administrative Court.

e) Depose the heads and board members of holding companies, who took part in wasting public money and assets, crushing national industry, and overlooking labor rights.

4. Making a clean break with the police state, the systematic practices of torture, involuntary disappearance, and murder, and the executive’s control of the Public Prosecutor’s Office that have existed in Egypt for several decades requires the dissolution of the State Security apparatus. It is unfortunate that the leaders of this agency—responsible for grave human rights abuses, the destruction of political life, and the undermining of Egyptians’ dignity—are still walking the streets freely. Thus far the public has been given only brief statements indicating that the director of the agency has been suspended and is being investigated, with no clarification as to the nature of these investigations. In addition, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces should open an immediate investigation in the documented reports indicating the involvement of members of the Military Police in cases of arbitrary detention and torture of detainees during the last period and refer those responsible to trial.

We have previously stated that the coming elections, both parliamentary and presidential, should come at the end of a transitional period of no less than one year during which civil liberties are fully respected, particularly the freedom to establish political parties, trade unions, NGOs, and all forms of media.

The undersigned organizations note with regret that the desire on the part of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to complete its mission as soon as possible is liable to lead to the establishment of constitutional institutions in a manner that differs little from those under the Mubarak regime and will do little to enable the forces and youth movements that led this revolution to express themselves politically in new political parties and independent media. Indeed, as it currently stands, the outcome of the coming elections will continue to be disputed by the ability of NDP members to mobilize factional sentiment and money and the organizational ability of the Muslim Brotherhood to employ religion and charitable work to attract votes.

We further stress that the blood shed by Egyptians to confront tyranny and restore their freedom and dignity makes it indispensable to provide a climate and adequate safeguards to ensure the realization of their aspirations by engaging in a real democratic transition and the construction of genuine constitutional institutions—the noble goals for which they shed their blood.

The democratic transition process – under the joint leadership of a presidential council and a new civil government – should enjoy the wide partnership of the people represented in the forces that led the revolution – women and men – and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. This needs opening an institutional dialogue with political parties and groups and civil society, led by youth groups who have instigated the revolution. The dialogue should not be reduced to discussion with individuals and must provide the opportunity for the widest societal dialogue to make the aspired future. 

The undersigned organizations stress that the democratic transition requires the rapid formation of a temporary presidential council composed of independent civilian figures along with a representative of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to assume the task of forming a transitional, technocratic government. The presidential council should form a constituent assembly responsible for drafting a new constitution that reflects the aspirations of the Egyptian people, as expressed in the revolution, for a civil state that is impartial toward all religions and beliefs and the establishment of democratic parliamentary governance. This council should also immediately take the necessary measures to ensure the exercise of civil liberties to enable equitable and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, based on the principle of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sex or other considerations, and guarantee representation and expression for opinions and ideas across the political spectrum. The undersigned organizations stress on the importance of putting in place sufficient guarantees for the representation of youth and women in the interim civil government and the constituent assembly drafting the new constitution.

We caution that holding elections after only minor constitutional revisions threatens aspirations for a real separation and balance of powers and runs the risk of preserving the same dictatorial prerogatives enjoyed by the president in the suspended constitution, with no accountability or genuine parliamentary oversight. This threatens the perpetuation of the same autocratic system, only without Mubarak and some of his supporters.

1. Al Nadim Center for Treatment and Psychological Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
2. Alliance for Arab Women
3. Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development (ACT)
4. Arab Penal Reform Organization
5. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
6. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
7. Association of the Women Development Forum
8. Cairo Center for Development
9. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
10. Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Aid
11. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
12. Egyptian Foundation for Family Development
13. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
14. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
15. Helwan Foundation for Community Development – Bashayer 
16. Hesham Mubarak Law Center
17. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
18. Land Center for Human Rights
19. Nazra Association for Feminist Studies
20. New Women Foundation
21. Women and Memory Forum
22. Youth Coalition of the Egyptian Revolution