Egypt rejects independent prison observers in response to UN
UN Human Rights Council - Photo courtesy of therepublicsquare

CAIRO: Egypt did not approve a protocol that would have allowed independent observer to visit detention facilities to prevent inhumane treatment: one of the recommendations it received during its United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in November 2014.

Egypt’s representatives attended a UN human Rights Council meeting in Geneva Friday, during which they announced Egypt’s acceptance of 224 and partial accepting 23 of total 300 received recommendations.

The recommendations were outlined by 122 countries during Egypt’s second UPR session, after its first session in 2010. Each UN member state has its human rights’ record reviewed in such session every four years; Egypt’s next scheduled review will take place in 2019.

“The constitution considers torture in all its shapes a crime that has no statute of limitations,” said a report submitted by Egypt summarizing its response to the recommendations.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly called for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture that allows non-governmental bodies to visit prisons.

“We are not satisfied with not ratifying the protocol,” Waleed Farouq, the head of the head of the National Association to Defend Rights and Freedoms, told The Cairo Post.

Farouq added that there should be pressure on the government in the coming period to sign the protocol.

Among the accepted recommendations, Egypt approved to amend the definition of torture in Article 126 in the Penal Code to be similar to the one in the UN convention, which Egypt is one of its signatories. Rights groups slammed the Egyptian definition of torture as “loose” and not detailing all types of torture, which could lead to impunity.

Egypt voiced that the concerns were “noted,” regarding the recommendations to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Despite his reservations, Farouq discussed Egypt’s “positive step” of approving 81 percent of the recommendations, saying “the most important thing now for the government is to realize these accepted recommendations on the ground.”

Recommendations to “revise the law regulating the right of public assembly” and “amend the NGO law” were accepted by Egypt, while recommendations to abolish the 2013 Protest Law were not.

Both the 2013 Protest Law and the 2002 civil society law have attracted huge criticism from independent organizations and activists.

Per the first law, many activists have been sent to jail on charges of breaking the protest law by not informing authorities and gaining permits prior to demonstrations.

Under the application of the 2002 civil society law, many Egyptian independent NGOs lamented they would turn to quasi-government bodies, thereby enabling the government to interfere in their work as well as their funding. Consequently, a number of NGOs announced closing their activities in Egypt.

Commenting on both laws, Farouq said there should be guarantees to guard the right to freedom of expression and assembly “in a country that witnessed two revolutions.”

Egypt has said in its statement on the recommendations that some recommendation were not supported either for “contradicting the Egyptian constitution” or that the recommendation “included incorrect claims.”

One of the recommendations not approved that contradicts with Islamic Sharia, which is the base of the Egyptian law, is the abolition of the death penalty.

The capital punishment issue in Egypt gained scrutiny after a number of courts handed down mass death sentences. In the Egyptian penal system, howeber, capital sentences often through several levels of litigation and in many cases are commuted. Some of the crimes punishable by death in Egypt are murder, rape, abduction, drug trafficking, treason, espionage and terrorism.

Some accepted recommendations were considering women and children rights, as well as economic and social rights. Further, Waleed praised “Egypt’s current strategy to enhance women rights.”

In its response, Egypt accepted a recommendation to “establish measure to effectively address discrimination and violence against women and girls,” and voiced “noted” to withdrawing reservations to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW.)

Egypt partially accepted a recommendation to revise two articles in CEDAW. In Egypt’s response, it will revise Article 2 of eliminating discrimination against women in the national legal framework, but not for Article 16 that stipulates “women have equal rights with men in relation to marriage and as parents as well as in respect of other aspects of family life.”

According to Islamic Sharia, Muslim families’ inheritance law stipulates specific percentages for family members based on their relationship to the deceased. Although sons inherit twice as much as daughters, there are a number of cases in which women inherit as much or more than men, depending on the heirs’ relation to the deceased, according to Egypt’s Dar al-Iftaa.


Additional reporting by Hanan Fayed

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