Thirteen renowned local NGOs issued a joint statement Saturday addressed to the Egyptian parliament, delineating recommendations to ensure enforcement of the constitution and human rights standards, amid the prevailing national and regional security concerns.
“We call on the parliament to particularly re-evaluate legislations that were passed in the past five years, as there is still a lack of protection of basic rights and freedoms, and often contradict constitutional guarantees,” the statement read.
Among the principal recommendations, the NGOs’ joint-statement called for the review of all laws enforced since the Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt was ratified by public referendum in 2014. Constitutional Article 156 stipulates that the House of Representatives must discuss all laws and decrees that have the force of law issued in its absence within 15 days of its assembly.
“The constitutional text is clear. As so, we condemn attempts by some members to interpret the text as if the requirement does not apply on the current parliament,” the statement continued.
MP Ali Abdul Aal was among those who claimed that the parliament was not obliged to revise decrees issued by former interim President Adly Mansour and current President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Abdul Aal is currently a candidate for the position of parliament speaker.
Abdul Aal argued, in published press statements, that the constitutional article only applied to “normal circumstances where the parliament is on vacation or is temporarily suspended, not in emergency times such as the post-30-June period.” He added that, in case of disputed constitutional views, a committee of the parliament will decide on the issue.
Nonetheless, NGOs acknowledged that terrorism is a major challenge to the country and the parliament, condemning the high frequency of attacks on security forces and civilians. But the NGOs argued that the state strategy has been ineffective in countering terrorism or addressing extremist ideologies, contending that by allowing more peaceful means of political practice, agents would have less need to resort to violent means.
According to the statement, NGOs called on the parliament to review the controversial Protest Law issued by Adly Mansour in November 2013, and anti-terrorism laws, which they believe should be abolished for “imposing endless restrictions on freedom of expression and political rights”.
The NGOs further called for amendment of the Penal Code and other legal changes to achieve the following:·
the criminalisation of all forms of torture, which according to constitutional article 52 is a crime with no statute of limitations, and the adoption of a punitive measures to hold agents who commit torture accountable;·
the annulment of the September 2014 amendment by President Al-Sisi to article 78 of the Penal Code – a statute that penalises the receipt of foreign funding with a life sentence, as well as the payment of fines – for it contains ambiguous and broad definitions of crimes of “disturbance of the public order”;·
the issuance of the unified houses of worship law, the review of legislative measures which discriminate between citizens of different religions, and the guarantee of religious freedoms while reinforce deterrents to religious hate speech·
the issuance of laws that separate judicial and executive powers, and the amendment of laws to ensure the judiciary’s financial and administrative independence;·
the reconsideration of the law allowing the army to protect vital institutions as it has overextended the operational scope of military tribunals;·
the finalisation of the law concerning transitional justice, the issuance of a law that enforces eyewitness protection programs, and the formation of a fact-finding committee to handle the victims of human rights’ violations since 2011;·
the annulment of laws that allow reconciliation in cases of illicit gains and public embezzlement, as long as investigations are ongoing and penalties have not been applied on violators;·
The rejection of recent laws on income tax, as well as the recently issued Investment Law which provides benefit singularly to investors and does not achieve social justice;·
the rejection of the presidential decree allowing the president to dismiss the heads of independent regulatory bodies as the decree contradicts the concept of transparency;·
the continuation of legislative reform concerning penalties on crimes of violence against women;·
the issuance of laws that allow women to be appointed to judiciary positions in the State Council, the General Prosecution Authority, and criminal courts;·
the issuance of the laws to decrease inflammatory and incitant speech from media personalitiesFinally, the NGOs listed international protocols which they believe Egypt should fully ratify:·
The UN Convention Against Torture·
The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance
· The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights· The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women· The Convention on the Rights of the Child
· The African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights , establishing the African Court of Human Rights
The NGOs party to the statement include the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the National Coalition for Child’s Rights, the Egyptian Center for Social and Economic Rights (ECESR), the Egyptian Commission for Human Rights (ECHR), Al-Haqanya Law Center, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), the New Woman Foundation (NWF), among others.