National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) member Salah Sallam called for the council’s powers to be modified, and be granted the right to investigate human rights abuses cases inside prisons and detention centres. He recommended that this be allowed without needing to obtain permission from the Public Prosecution. He also hopes NCHR recommendations be considered mandatory instead of merely advisory.
Sallam added that he hopes the Protest Law be amended quickly and the NCHR’s recommendations on the matter be taken into account. He noted that the law failed to prevent demonstrations or contribute to the reduction of violence committed by the Muslim Brotherhood. It did not achieve anything other than putting respected revolutionary youth in jail, Sallam said.
How would you assess NCHR’s role in defending human rights and freedoms?
The NCHR needs to have its organisational law amended and powers increased. It must be granted the right to investigate cases of human rights abuses in prisons and detention centres, without needing to obtain permission from the Attorney General, in addition to its opinions become mandatory rather than simply advisory and weak.
What is your opinion on the Protest Law?
I hope it will be amended at the nearest possible time, and the NCHR’s observations and recommendations taken into account. This law did not prevent protests, and neither did it contribute to reducing Muslim Brotherhood violence. It didn’t achieve anything other than putting respectable revolutionary youth in jail. We are not requesting that it be annulled, but instead that it be amended and certain controls on protests put in place, as with what happens in advanced countries. As for the Brotherhood violence, the penal code is very much adequate to address this.
What is your opinion on the crisis between the Ministry of Social Solidarity and human rights organisations?
The deadline to resolve the situation is exaggerated and the ministry has to invite the organisations to standardisation but in an open-ended manner to avoid further complications. A solution must be found between these organisations and the government.
As someone from Sinai, how do you assess the situation in the region in recent times from a human rights perspective?
There is discrimination against the people of Sinai. For example, people from Sinai are banned from studying in military colleges. This discrimination goes back to the belief amongst some that the people of Sinai are agents [for foreign countries], and the people of Sinai are suffering from the worsening human rights situation in recent times.
You talked about the suffering of Sinai’s people. Can you give some examples?
Closing the Salam Bridge for security reasons has made people wait on ferries for long hours, sometimes even days. Why don’t they increase the number of ferries between Port Fouad and Port Said to eight? Between Sinai and the rest of Egypt there are only four ferries, two of which operate 24 hours a day, and the remaining two only 12 hours a day. This doesn’t make sense when you make lip service to development.
But some argue that in the case of a war on terrorism, human rights should take a step backwards?
Just because I am a member of NCHR does not mean I will defend human rights night and day. There has to be proper compensation for residents of the Sinai and there must be given sufficient warning in advance of evictions, as stipulated by statements made by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
What is your opinion on the destruction of public property in demonstrations?
Whoever engages in the destruction of public property deserves at least to be referred to a military trial, because these properties are paid for by our taxes. I request that university students who engage in acts of violence or vandalism be sent to military conscription immediately, until they learn to behave and be disciplined and appreciate the value of their country.