Egyptian human rights organizations submit reports for UN UPR
Hafez Abu Seda, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: A number of human rights and civil society organizations recently presented reports for the 2014 Universal Periodic Review to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

“The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States,” according to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ website.

Along with a government report, and reports by UN entities, the UPR final report is based on “information from other stakeholders including national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations.”

Egypt’s 2014 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is scheduled to be held from Oct. 27 to Nov. 7.

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), on behalf of the 19-member Egyptian Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations, submitted Sunday a report for the UPR, according to a March 18 statement published on CIHRS’s website.

The CIHRS report documents the rights situation in Egypt since 2009, outlining the extent to which the Egyptian government has respected and guaranteed different freedoms and rights, the statement said.

According to the statement, the U.N. bans the publication or discussion of reports presented to it for the UPR by civil society organizations, before the Human Rights Council publishes them.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) presented its report for the UPR on March 13, according to a statement published on the organization’s website on March 16.

The EOHR statement provides a summary of the presented report; covering torture, the condition of prisons, the right to assembly, political rights, freedom of religion and thought, discrimination against women, and human trafficking.

The summary publishes some of the findings. For example, in the torture section of the summary the statement says that “current legislation and procedures are still defective,” while in the political rights section it recommends amendments to “penal and criminal laws …  to make it possible to prosecute civil officials who commit crimes” during the electoral process.

A member of the CIHRS who requested anonymity said EOHR’s released summary represents a violation to the regulations set by the UPR.

“I do not want to interfere in the work of the EOHR but the details included in their report are a blatant violation of the rules of the UPR,” he told The Cairo Post Wednesday, adding that civil society organizations were not allowed to discuss or publish their findings prior to the holding of the UPR session.

“The EOHR represents over 140 other human rights organizations rather than those 19 organizations that signed the CIHRS report,” Tarek Zaghloul, the deputy general secretary of EOHR, told The Cairo Post Wednesday.

“We often coordinate with those 19 organizations regarding investigation reports of major issues but we did not this time,” said Zaghloul.

He said the EOHR developed a 45-page report and that the information mentioned in the summary “does not represent violations to the UNHRC’s publish restriction.”

“The information just contains the highlights of the report and we do not think it violates the publish ban,” said Zaghloul.

Amr Wagdy, a member of the Nation Council for Human Rights’ Secretariat told The Cairo Post on March 22 that “each human rights organization is free to join with other organizations to publish a combined UPR report or publish its own.”

Not publishing the reports for the UPR is “customary” but there are “no universal laws banning its publication or discussion,” Wagdy said adding that “the UNHRC does not restrict publishing the full UPR report. Each human rights organization can publish it even before it is sent to the UNCHR.”

Concerning the NCHR’s own report for the UPR, Wagdy said “the NCHR, being a state run organization, presents its report separately,” adding that the NCHR convened dialogue sessions in Cairo and Asyut to prepare its report which was sent to the UNHRC on March 15.

 Expression and Freemuse, an
worldwide, presented a joint stakeholder submission for the UPR on March 17.

“It is the first time Freemuse submits a UPR, and the submission is historic being the first ever in the U.N. history, which focuses entirely on restrictions on artistic freedom”, said Freemuse director Ole Reitov, according to a March 17 statement on Freemuse’s website.

According to the statement, “the joint submission is based on a joint study on censorship legislations in Egypt, ‘Censors of Creativity’, which will be published in April 2014 at a report-cum-launch session in Cairo.”

The statement says the report discusses “freedom of artistic creativity and production” and how they are limited in Egypt by censorship laws. The report also issues several suggestions to Egypt “on the need for legislative and institutional reforms.”

“The Egyptian government has now six months to respond to the submission,” the statement concludes.

A full text of the UPR report is available for public access on Freemuse’s website.

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