CAIRO: Egypt rejected on Tuesday UN rights investigator Martin Scheinin’s criticism of the government’s use of emergency law in a report discussed at the UN Human Rights Council on Monday.
Scheinin, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, presented the report which is the Council’s first to focus exclusively on Egypt.
In the report, Scheinin said that administrative detention orders repealed by the judiciary in Egypt are often “renewed immediately upon a person’s release or, in the worst case, just ignored through unacknowledged detention until a new order of official administrative detention is obtained.
The investigator expressed his concern that Egypt s emergency law is applied within situations that have no link to terrorist activities such as detention of bloggers and politically motivated trials. He also pointed out to the repeated use of the military courts and state security courts.
When combined with the pending counter-terrorism law, he stressed, Article 179 of the Egyptian Constitution as amended in March 2007 would create a permanent legal state of emergency.
Representatives from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies attended the session in Geneva and expressed their support for the report, which is based on Scheinin’s mission in Egypt in April 2009.
“Today the Special Rapporteur confirmed what human rights defenders have been warning about for several years: the proposed counter-terrorism law in Egypt is an attempt by the government to normalize the state of emergency and undermine the constitutional protection of fundamental rights, Moataz El-Fegiery, executive director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said in a press statement.
Egyptian officials denied all the observations claiming that the emergency law does not suspend or limit ordinary laws or judicial oversight despite clear legal clauses.
“The current circumstances require us to declare a state of emergency, Mofid Shehab, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, told Arabic daily Al-Shorouk last month.
He explained that the current sectarian tension and regional violence makes the emergency laws essential for Egypt’s survival.
“Egyptian officials did everything they could to limit the scope of the Special Rapporteur’s mission: they barred him from visiting prisons and interviewing detainees and refused to let him observe any terrorism trials or meet with families of victims and detainees, said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
“But the facts are clear, and the mission report provides the most damning assessment of systemic human rights abuses committed in the name of security since 1981, Bahgat added.
Egyptian and international rights groups have been urging the government to lift the State of Emergency, to abolish the recently added Article 179 of the Constitution on combating terrorism and to ensure that any existing and future anti-terrorism law complies with all international human rights standards. -Compiled by Daily News Egypt.