Open letter to To Mr. Ahmed Nazif Prime Minister of the Arab Republic of Egypt

21/04/2006
Press release

Dear Prime Minister,

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its Egyptian member organizations the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRAAP) urge the Egyptian Government to put an end to the 25 years of state of emergency.

Our organizations have repeatedly expressed their concern over the extended duration of the emergency situation in Egypt, which, according to the criteria defined by the United Nations, has no longer been justifiable since many years ago. Indeed, according to international instruments, and in particular Article 4 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the state of emergency, and the derogation from some of the obligations stated in the Covenant, cannot be declared but for a limited period of time, in exceptional circumstances, in case of an exceptional public danger endangering the life of the nation.

FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP strongly condemn the state of emergency’s extension, and would instead consider its termination by the Egyptian authorities as a step forward towards the respect of Human Rights in Egypt and the strengthening of democratic values in the country. Indeed, the extension of the state of emergency in Egypt has been the source of several violations of human rights, and has been used by the authorities to repress political opponents and to severely limit the freedom of expression and association.

Moreover, our organizations are concerned for a number of human rights violations that took place with a renewed strength in the last months in Egypt, and, in particular, for the repeated limitations to freedom of expression and opinion, whose victims were different groups of the Egyptian civil society. FIDH and its member organizations consider that all reform processes in a democratic society have to involve cooperation and dialogue between the authorities and representatives of civil society.

In the last months, Egyptian judges urged a reform which would guarantee a true independence of the judiciary power from the executive one. Only a real independence would guarantee the magistrates’ impartiality, which is essential for the protection of human rights and justice.

FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP are particularly concerned about the 6 Egyptian magistrates (Mahmoud El-Khodeiri, Hesham Bastaweisi, Mahmoud Mekki, Ahmed Mekki, Yehia Galal and Assem Abdel-Gabar), who have been stripped of their immunity to be accused of defamation and insult after criticizing irregularities in the presidential elections in 2005, during which they remarked intimidation, violence towards voters and judges supervising the polls, as well as vote rigging.

FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP encourage the Egyptian authorities to accept the judges’ demands of investigation on the alleged irregularities of the presidential elections and to ensure the independence of the judiciary, which could only guarantee its neutrality.

FIDH and its member organizations once again reiterate their call for dialogue. They encourage the Egyptian authorities to consider the demands of the Egyptian Press Syndicate and to examine together the journalists’ demands for the reform of the laws governing the press, and in particular the clauses on defamation, so as to decriminalize the press related offences in order to guarantee freedom of expression and democracy in the country. FIDH and its member organizations encourage also the authorities to reconsider the sentences for press related offences that have been pronounced, the most recent against the Abdel Nasser El-Zoheiri and Amira Malash, two journalists that were sentenced, in two different trials, to a year of imprisonment and a fine of 10,000 LE, as well as abstaining from applying penal sentences for the other hundreds of cases which are reportedly before the courts at present.

Lastly, the Egyptian Prime Minister has announced that the Egyptian government was discussing a draft anti-terrorism law.
FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP, while recognizing that every State has both the right and the duty to take measures to combat terrorism, would like to remind that this to be done strictly respecting human rights and humanitarian law.

FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure the conformity of the new legislation to their international obligations on the subject, and in particular on :

* Explicit protection of rights that cannot be derogated (Right to life, Freedom of expression, religion and belief, prohibition of torture and any form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment),
* Right to a fair and impartial trial, guarantees on the presumption of innocence, arrest only in case of reasonable suspicion, as well as the obligation to communicate to the detainee the charges against him/her and the guarantee of access to a lawyer.
* Specific safeguards on the procedures of arrest and detention.
* Absolute prohibition of torture in all circumstances.
* A legal definition of « terrorism » that does not leave ground for misinterpretation or abuse that could consent the penalization of legitimate acts for the International Human Rights Law.
* Respect of the Rights of migrants and asylum seekers, and strict respect of the principle of non-refoulement for persons at risk of facing torture, or any kind of inhuman or degrading treatment in the country where they are extradited. In particular, the principle of non-refoulement has to be strictly observed in extradition procedures.
* Respect for the Right to privacy, Right to private property
* Compensation for the victims of terrorism

All anti-terrorism measures should be lawful, clearly defined by law and have to include the possibility of being challenged before a court.

Moreover, FIDH, EOHR and HRAAP keep being deeply concerned about the maintenance of the death penalty in Egypt. This inhuman treatment, which denies the universally recognized right to life and which have been proved useless as a deterrent, is reportedly still being used by Egyptian courts.

We trust that the concerns expressed in this letter will receive the attention they deserve.
Yours faithfully,

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