The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) has issued its 10th annual report, covering the period from 30 June 2013 to the end of December 2014, in which it stresses the necessity of issuing laws for the building and restoration of churches, and for establishing a commission for non-discrimination and equal opportunity. Not all observers, however, are happy with the new report.
The report calls for amendment of the Penal Code in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Convention against Torture. It also demands the abolition of the pressures and restrictions exercised by the administrative authorities on Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in accordance with law 84 of 2002 until the long-awaited NGO law is passed by the coming parliament.
Other recommendations include eliminating slums in a specified pre-determined period of time, amending the pleadings and criminal procedures law to guarantee fair and correct procedure in courts, reforming the judicial system, and issuing new items of legislation and amending a number of existing ones.
Muslim Brotherhood violence
In monitoring the latest round of acts of violence, the NCHR recorded an unprecedented increase in terrorist attacks against the army and the police, as well as civilians. It covered the victims who fell in the Muslim Brotherhoods’ (MB) armed sit-ins the Rabea and Nahda squares and during their disbanding at the hands of the security forces in August 2013. It also mentions the systematic violence masterminded and executed by the MB and their supporters as soon as the disbanding operation started. The MB adopted a strategy which aimed at undermining the State, breaching security, and terrorising civilians. The plan appeared to be to paralyse the country by promoting lawlessness, suspending public services, targeting utilities including transport and power generation, and disrupting the educational process in universities and learning institutions. Public and foreign establishments were prime targets of MB violence, as were courthouses, churches, houses belonging to Christians, museums, cultural centres and security directorates; all of which were accompanied by MB media propaganda that incited violence, hate and mistrust.
The report registered the fall of some 2,600 victims of the violence committed by militias supporting the MB and other terrorist groups. These included 700 members of the police and the army, 500 non-MB civilians and 1250 members of the MB and their supporters.
Complaints by type
The report is divided into six parts. The first deals with the human rights conditions during the period in question; the second handles the council’s efforts at finding solutions for complaints; the third is about the effort to disseminate human rights culture; the fourth covers the council’s work strategy; and the fifth highlights the council’s cooperation with local, regional and international organisations. The sixth part of the report includes recommendations made by the council and directed to the parties concerned, for the sake of improving human rights conditions in Egypt.
According to the report, the NCHR complaints office received 4,235 complaints, 495 of which fell beyond the council’s jurisdiction. The number of complaints dealing with economic and social rights ranked first at 2,659 and represented 62 per cent of all those received. They varied between the need for material or in-kind governmental aid and issues such as the right to housing, education, health, and social security. Other complaints related to demands for regaining workers’ rights lost to management intransigence which deprived the workers of their dues or their right to promotion, and imposed on them illegal reassignment, discrimination and maltreatment.
Complaints addressing civil and political rights ranked second at 1,312 complaints representing 30 per cent of all those received. These included claims of serious breaches of rights including the right to life, the right to freedom, the right to personal security and to fair trial, the right to physical safety and protection from arbitrary arrest and forced disappearance, and the legal rights of prisoners.
Careful analysis of the content of the civil and political rights complaints brought down the final total number of complaints to 1,048, including 555 civil and political rights complaints, 383 prisoners’ rights complaints and 110 legal rights complaints.
Complaints from the governorates of Cairo, Giza, and Gharbiya made up the lion’s share of those received by NCHR. Cairo ranked first with 777 complaints representing 18.3 per cent, Giza second with 451 complaints representing 10.6 per cent and Gharbiya third with 329 complaints representing 7.76 per cent. The border governorates ranked last in the number of complaints, the total number received from residents in the governorates of al-Wadi al-Gadid, Marsa Matruh, the Red Sea, North Sinai and South Sinai together numbering 17 and representing 0.07 per cent of all complaints received by NCHR.
An additional 69 complaints, representing 1.62 per cent, were sent to NCHR via email or fax and therefore their origin could not be traced.
The NCHR recommended setting an acceptable limit for remand prison, and called for the release of sick or elderly detainees for humanitarian and medical reasons, as well as any detained student not involved in violence.
The report was, however, described as ‘weak’ by several human rights activists who claim that many of the recommendations it included are mere repetitions from previous reports.
Falling short on religious freedom
The council received a number of complaints relating to freedom of thought and belief, especially from followers of the Baha’i sect concerning their inability to obtain identity papers for themselves and their children.
The council was criticised for disregarding complaints related to Christians, such as specific cases of difficulty in building churches, or discrimination against them in public positions.
Even though the report dealt with the period from 30 June 2013 to the end of 2014, it failed to describe in detail the attacks conducted by terrorist groups on numerous churches in the wake of the disbanding of the Rabea and Nahda sit-ins in August 2013. The NCHR had dispatched a fact-finding commission to document these attacks but never published the report the commission wrote. The current report gave no figures regarding the losses incurred by the many churches and Christian establishments plundered and torched then by the MB.
17 June 2015