Sunday، 19 May 2013 - 12:00 AM
The issue of human rights is presently raised as a top priority on both the local and international agendas.
In the post-WWII era, nations sought independence and statehood. Several human rights organizations were also established with the purpose of protecting basic public freedoms. The result was the adoption of a host of international human rights agreements and declarations, to which Egypt is signatory.
As a sign of its commitment to and respect of human rights, Egypt has set up the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood (NCMC) in 1989, the National Committee for Women in 1993, the National Council for Women (NCW) in 2000, and the National Human Rights Council (NHRC) in 2003.
Egypt was also among the first countries to sign the international Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1989. The ten-year period from 1989 to 1999 was further declared Decade of the Child.
Human rights have also drawn a great deal of attention in Egypt over the past few years, given increasing international interest and the rise in the number of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) operating in this field.
Human Rights History in Egypt
Pharaonic Egypt was one of the earliest civilizations ever to show respect for human rights. The Ancient Egyptians were the first to acknowledge man's right to life. A case in point would be that they deferred the execution of a convicted pregnant woman till she gives birth.
Ancient Egypt not only believed in, but also applied, the principle of equality to its entire population. Egyptians were equal before the law, without discrimination between rich and poor, and/or free people and slaves. The Ancient Egyptians also encouraged both men and women to get a proper education.
Under Christianity, Egyptians found salvation from the injustices they suffered under Roman Emperors.
Islam too preached equality and freed humanity from economic, political and social burdens.
Human rights can be classified and organized in a number of different ways; at an international level the most common categorization of human rights has been to split them into civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights.
Civil and political rights are enshrined in articles 3 to 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Civil and political rights are a class of rights that protect individuals' freedom and ensure one's ability to participate in the civil and political life of the state without discrimination or repression.
Civil rights include the ensuring of peoples' physical and mental integrity, life and safety; protection from discrimination on grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, color, ethnicity, religion, or disability and individual rights such as privacy, the freedoms of thought and conscience, speech and expression, religion, the press, assembly and movement.
Political rights include natural justice (procedural fairness) in law, such as the rights of the accused, including the right to a fair trial; due process; the right to seek redress or a legal remedy; and rights to participation in civil society and politics such as freedom of association, the right to assemble, the right to petition, the right to self-defense, and the right to vote.
While, economic, social and cultural rights are enshrined in articles 22 to 28 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Economic, social and cultural rights are socio-economic human rights, such as the right to education, right to housing, right to adequate standard of living, and the right to health.
Another categorization added a third-type of rights which is the solidarity rights (right to peace, right to clean environment).
Egyptian Human Rights Sources
A- Global human rights instruments
Global human rights instruments are treaties and other international documents relevant to international human rights law and the protection of human rights in general.
The global instruments include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Et al.
B- Regional human rights instruments
The regional instruments are restricted to states in a particular region of the world.
When talking about the issue of human rights as one of the important international policy issues, we find ourselves in front of five points or basic questions:
1- The connection between human rights issue and the international and national dimensions and its relationship with the international conventions and treaties on one hand and the national laws on the other hand.
2- The identification of human rights priorities in human societies, and whether the political rights are more important than the economic rights or vice versa.
3- The balance between individual interest principle on one hand and public interest principle and social system on the other hand; and which authority that can determine the balance point?
4- The idea of universality and specificity of human rights and the right of human societies to disagree about some human rights' basics and contexts.
5- The contradiction between the universal call for human rights and the persecution of peoples. This is clear in the European practice in Africa in the past and Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories and the Israeli repression practices against the Palestinian people nowadays without any intervention from the US or Europe, the patrons of human rights in the world, to prevent or mitigate these practices or to punish Israel.
International and Regional Agreements
• The Slavery Convention (1926)
• The United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) (1948)
• The (ILO) Forced Labor Convention No. 29 of 1930 and the Convention concerning Abolition of Forced Labor No. 105 of 1957
• The Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others (1950)
• The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951)
• The Convention on the Political Rights of Women (United Nations, 1953)
• The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination of (1966)
• The International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (United Nations, (1966)
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (United Nations, 1966)
• The International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (United Nations, 1967)
• Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (1967)
• The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (1973)
• International Convention against Apartheid in Sports (1985)
• The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1990)
• The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000)
• The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on children in armed conflict (2000)
• The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (2004)
• The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, 1980
• The Arab Declaration on the Rights of the Child, 1983
• The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, 2001
Major Human Rights Organizations
A- Governmental Organizations
National Council for Human Rights
It was set up on June 12, 2003 under law No. 94 of 2003. Operating under the Shura Council, it aims at promoting and protecting human rights, and safeguarding public freedom.
The Council is seen as a tool seeking to enhance democracy, ensuring public freedom and safeguarding human rights. It aims at:
• Protecting the Egyptian rights at home and promoting Egypt's image abroad by seeking to abolish all freedom-restricting legislation.
• Cooperating with human rights non-governmental organizations in Egypt which shoulder heavy burdens in this domain.
• To put a national plan to enhancement, to develop the protection of human rights in Egypt, and to suggest the means by which to achieve this plan.
• To receive complaints of citizens, to study and raise them to the authorities and bodies concerned.
• To follow up the implementation of international agreements and conventions related to human rights.
• To cooperate with international organizations and bodies interested in human rights which contribute to achieving the goals of the Council and developing its relations.
• To participate with the Egyptian delegates in the forums, meetings of the regional and international organizations interested in human rights.
• To contribute opinions in order to prepare reports that the state is obliged to provide periodically to the committees and organs of human rights implementation to the international agreements and response to their queries.
• To spread the human rights culture and concepts, making sure that the citizens are aware of them.
• To organize conferences, sessions and round table discussions on issues related to human rights.
The Shura Council agreed on 4/9/2012 to appoint Judge Mohamed Hossam Eldin Ghariani as President, Abdel Ghaffar Hussein as Deputy-Chief and the following as members:
- Dr. Amira Ahmed Aboul Fotouh
- Dr. Safwat Hamouda Hegazy
- Dr. Tarek Mohamed Mohamed Moawad
- Mr. Talat Marzouk Abdel Aziz Saad
- Mr. Abdul Khaliq Farouq Hassan Mohamed
- Dr. Abdallah Hassan Ashaal
- Mr. Abdallah Abdul Aziz Mohammed Badran
- Mr. Moneim Abdel Maksoud Metwally
- Mrs. Marianne Malak
- Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Beltagy
- Mr. Mohammed Ahmed Al-Azab
- Mr. Mohammed Saeed Toson
- Dr. Mohamed Bahi Abu Younis
- Mr. Mohamed Fahmy Damati Bhi
- Dr. Mohamed Sayed Abdallah Aziz
- Dr. Mona Makram Ebeid
- Mr. Hany Mohamed Youssef Abdel Aal
- Mrs. Hoda Abdel Moneim Abdel Aziz
- Mr. Wijdan Abdel-Badie Mohamed Araby
On 23/8/2013 the government issued a decree to form the new National Council for Human Rights.
President of the Council: Mohamed Fayek.
Vice President of the Council: Abdel Ghaffar Hussein Shokr.
B- Non-Governmental Organizations
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)
EOHR was established in 1985 by a group of journalists and public figures interested in the field of human rights. EOHR is a non-profit seeking NGO working within the framework of the principles established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other international human rights instruments regardless of the identity or the affiliation of the victim(s) or of the violator(s). It acts against both governmental and non-governmental human rights violations.
• To provide full respect for human rights and the basic freedoms of all Egyptians and non-Egyptians who are in Egypt, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.
• To provide legal aid to the victims of violations against the freedom of opinion and expression. In addition, to assist prisoners and detainees who are subject to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.
Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR)
AOHR was established in 1983 and the 1st general assembly met in Khartoum on January 30-31, 1987.
• To call for respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all citizens and individuals in Arab countries in accordance with provisions of international human rights instruments.
• To defend any individual or group whose human rights are subjected to violations which are contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists
Arab Program for Human Rights Activists was established in March 1997
• To protect human right activists from all violations in collaboration with the activists themselves to create new mechanisms for protection.
• To contact with human right activists within the framework of coordination and cooperation to give mutual protection.
• To develop discussions related to the training aspects of human right activists.
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
CIHRS is an independent scientific, research and intellectual non-governmental organization.
• To promote respect for the principles of human rights and democracy, analyzing the difficulties facing the application of International Human Rights Law.
• To disseminate human rights culture in the Arab region in respect to the various international human rights treaties and declarations.
Human Rights Center for the Assistance of Prisoners (HRCAP)
HRCAP was established in 1997 as a non-political, non-profit civil company. It aims to provide legal assistance to prisoners and to advocate the reform of prisons so that they become places of correction and rehabilitation.
• To develop the Egyptian penal system in order to ensure its conformity with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Convention Against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to seek all possible ways to implement these international standards.
• To monitor and gather information regarding Egyptian prisons. Then, to analyze these information and suggest recommendations that would improve prison conditions.
• To provide legal aid to prisoners.
• To raise awareness among lawyers, those working in penal institutions and citizens in general of the rights of prisoners.
Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA)
CEWLA is a civil organization that was established in 1995 with the aim of providing legal support for Egyptian women.
• To create a climate that enshrines the principle of equal opportunities between sexes.
• To use the law and international conventions to help women.
• To develop the idea of legal and judicial support for women and to remove discriminatory provisions in various laws.
• To support women and provide them with a range of different skills and knowledge to enable them to perform different social roles.
• To organize conferences and meetings to present the problems of women to the media.
Egyptian Child Rights Center (ECRC)
ECRC adopts a policy of defending the Egyptian child from all aspects and restricting children at risk and the leading causes of this situation.
• To improve the legislative conditions for children in Egypt.
• To unify the different concepts to children's issues.
• To identify the sources of danger to children with the participation of the community.
Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (ACIJLP)
ACIJLP was established in 1997.
• To strengthen the political situation in order to enhance the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession.
• To organize and mobilize the support and assistance to the judges and lawyers.
• To develop awareness of constitutional and international guarantees for the legal profession.
• To develop the legislative structure in order to address the imbalances in the organization of the judiciary.