In wake of disregard for international rights conventions in draft constitution: Ministry of Foreign Affairs cancels invitations to advocacy groups to meet with EU; President excludes rights organizations from meeting with “civil society”
Joint Press Release by 21 Egyptian Human Rights organizations
The undersigned rights organizations strongly condemn the exclusion of Independent Egyptian human rights organizations by the Egyptian authorities. Two days ago, the president excluded such groups from a meeting he convened with “civil society” groups. Most recently, a number of Egyptian, European, and international human rights groups were invited to a joint meeting of the Egyptian-European Task-Force meeting, scheduled to begin today, yet the invitation was suddenly withdrawn before the meeting with no reasons being provided. It has come to the attention of the undersigned organizations that the Foreign Ministry intervened to cancel the invitation extended to organizations they did not wish to see in attendance, although it did not withdraw the invitation sent to European, international and other more “acceptable” Egyptian rights groups.
Under the former regime and during the tenure of the Supreme Council for the Armed Forces (SCAF), decision-makers in Egypt commonly excluded human rights groups from discussions about pressing issues and political decisions that affect the rights and liberties of citizens. Everyone expected the first president elected after the January 25 revolution to pursue a new policy that paved the way for communication and cooperation with rights groups in order to benefit from their experience and include their recommendations in the relevant decision-making processes. However, the human rights policies adopted by the current president and government have been disappointing.
As part of the efforts by independent human rights groups to engage with the 100-day plan announced by the president, these groups noted that the strengthening and protection of human rights was not among the president’s declared priorities. A number of rights groups prepared reports on the status of human rights during the first 100 days of the president’s term, offering recommendations and proposing measures to the president and the government. No response was received. These groups were excluded from the president’s recent meeting with civil society organizations, showing that the political will needed to strengthen human rights and involve human rights groups in decision-making discussions is sorely lacking.
This trend is consistent with the practices of the political parties currently dominating the constituent assembly and the constitution drafting process, which are clearly hostile to human rights. The successive drafts of the constitution restrict citizens’ fundamental rights and liberties and have excluded any reference to international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt. Even the meager references which had been present in the pre-revolutionary constitution have disappeared. In this context, it is important to note that the new draft law on NGOs recently proposed by the Ministry of Insurance and Social Affairs is one of the most draconian and arbitrary in Egypt’s history.
Instead of putting forth a program for democratization and transitional justice, particularly in the realm of security reform after decades of severe human rights abuses, the Ministry of Interior recently proposed five repressive laws that violate international human rights norms. The president has already declared his intent to issue one of the laws, despite increasing complaints about the continuation of torture in detention facilities, the ill treatment of citizens, and the violent suppression of political and social protests.
Similarly, during a conference convened by the UN on Wednesday in Cairo, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demonstrated the current government’s reluctance to establish a meaningful process of transitional justice in Egypt as well as to ensuring accountability for perpetrators of pas abuses and to compensate victims. The government boycotted the inaugural session by not sending a representative, although the conference agenda included a speech to be given by an Egyptian government representative. The following day, a representative from the Foreign Ministry attended the event and sharply attacked the conference, calling it an extension of the international conspiracy against Egypt and even declaring that the concept of transitional justice is rejected in Egypt.
The CIHRS has informed the president, the Ministry of Justice, and leading members of the Freedom and Justice Party of this scandal and sent a memo to the president yesterday asking him to explain the Foreign Ministry’s hostile stance towards independent human rights groups, even after this very ministry had extended invitations to these same organizations, which had been marginalized under the former regime.
The undersigned organizations urge the president to:
- Abandon the policy of exclusion aimed at human rights groups;
- Conduct a serious discussion with human rights groups on their perspective on the state of public and private liberties and rights in the proposed constitution, as well as their evaluation of the human rights situation in recent months and means to facilitate cooperation;
- Reject the repressive laws proposed by the Interior Ministryand the Cabinet bill on labor unions, as only the president possesses the legislative authority needed to issue or reject such laws until a new parliament is elected.
The undersigned organizations:
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
- Appropriate Communications Techniques for Developments (ACT)
- Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Rights Support
- Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- Arab Penal Reform Organization
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Center for Egyptian Woman’s Legal Assistance
- Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
10. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
11. Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of the Childhood Conditions
12. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
13. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
14. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
15. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
16. Hesham Mubarak Law Center
17. Land Center for Human Rights
18. Nazra for Feminist Studies.
19. New Woman Foundation
20. The Egyptian Center for Woman’s Rights
21. United Group, attorneys at law, legal researchers, and human rights advocates