UN Concerned with Human Rights in Egypt

(Statement Issued by International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH))

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

November 22, 2002

Paris- Geneva, November 21, 2002 - On November 1st, 2002, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (CCPR), after examining Egypt's report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed wide concern about the human rights situation in Egypt, including torture, state of emergency, discrimination against women, anti-Semitism, and human rights defenders. The UN Committee against torture (CAT) issued on November 20, 2002, its concluding observations on Egypt, in which it expresses concern about the "persistence of the phenomenon of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by law-enforcement officials" in Egypt.

Torture in Egypt

The CCPR experts already focused in their concluding observations on "the persistence of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of law-enforcement personnel, in particular the security services whose recourse to such practices appears to display a systematic pattern".

The CAT, to which the HRCAP (Human Rights Committee for the Assistance of Prisoners) presented an alternative report, with the support of the FIDH, also noted with concern "the widespread evidence of torture and ill-treatment in administrative premises under the control of the State Security Investigation Department". It also pointed out the "absence of measures ensuring effective protection and prompt and impartial mechanism" as "victims of torture and ill-treatment have no direct access to the courts to lodge complaints against law enforcement officials". Furthermore, the experts expressed concern about ill treatment of specific groups of detainees and notably abuse of under-age detainees and homosexuals.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation

Both the CAT and CCPR experts noted the discrimination prevailing in Egypt on the basis of sexual orientation, and the CAT recommended that Egypt "remove all ambiguity in legislation which might underpin the persecution of individuals because of their sexual orientation" and that "steps should be taken to prevent all degrading treatment (...)". The FIDH and Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) submitted a joint note to the CCPR on this point. The FIDH recalls that following its submission of the Queen Boat case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the detention of 50 defendants suspected of homosexuality was declared arbitrary.

State of Emergency and Anti-terrorism

Both Committees also recommended to the Egyptian authorities the lifting of State of Emergency which has been into force in Egypt since 1981, and that is hindering the full consolidation of the rule of law in Egypt. Furthermore the CCPR noted the negative effects on human rights of anti-terrorist measures in Egypt. In particular, the continued use of military and State security courts for trying civilians was criticised, as they do not offer sufficient guarantees of a fair trial.

Human Rights Defenders in Egypt

The FIDH welcomes the fact that both Committees focused on the legal and practical restrictions on the activities of non-governmental organizations engaged in upholding human rights. The FIDH recalls that human rights defenders in Egypt already subjected to repression in the past, have been made even more vulnerable since the promulgation of a new law on associations in June 2002.

The CCPR also expressed concern on continued discrimination against women in Egypt. The experts of the CCPR also pointed out the recent expressions of anti-Semitism in Egyptian Media and recommended that Egypt punish such facts.

The FIDH calls upon the Egyptian authorities to thoroughly follow up on the dialogue held in October and November 2002 between the CCPR and CAT experts and the Egyptian delegation.

The FIDH urges Egypt to effectively implement the recommendations made by the CCPR and CAT experts and in particular to agree to a visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Furthermore, the FIDH demands that the Egyptian authorities ensure the freedom of action of human rights defenders in Egypt, garanteed in particular by the Declaration on Human rights defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1998.

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