Compromized Human Rights in Egypt

Youth politicians from Egypt visited The Oslo Center in 2011. The main topics of discussion were human rights and dialogue.
Youth politicians from Egypt visited The Oslo Center in 2011. The main topics of discussion were human rights and dialogue. (Here visiting the Parliament)

Hundred thousands of people attended the demonstrations in January 2011 against the state and its authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak. 846 were killed and 3000 were reported injured in what was Egypt’s greatest match to date against corruption, unemployment, lack of housing, rising prices, not to mention the lack of freedom of expression in the country. Mubarak is gone, a new president and parliament have been elected, but the changes are still to come two years later.

After the first constitutional assembly failed to promote concrete proposals for a new constitution, they were allocated in June of 2012. The second, current constitutional assembly has since had problems in that there have been strong internal disagreements. Several politicians from liberal and leftist parties have left the assembly due to the Islamist faction’s unwillingness to meet on key issues including religious freedom.

Inadequate Constitution

The new constitution that was voted ahead on 30th November 2012 was contradictory and lacking in several areas. It was approved in the middle of a standoff between President Mohammed Morsi and Egypt’s judiciary. The Constitution provides basic protection against arbitrary detention and torture, as well as some economic rights, but fails to stop the military prosecution of civilians and does not protect freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Shura Council is the upper house of the Egyptian parliament and is currently the legislative authority in the country. Today there is a clear majority sitting members of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), and Salafist party Al Nour. They have faced strong criticism for working in the Islamists’ favor. As recent as in April the council adopted a bill that removed a controversial clause that prohibits religious slogans in election campaigns.

Restricted freedom of speech

Several journalists have been prosecuted for defamation, fifteen people have been investigated and prosecuted for “insulting religion”, three international NGOs and an Egyptian TV channel have been shut down by the authorities. Police violence is still common, and women have experienced increased discrimination in which the state has failed to interfere and stop.  These are just a few examples of how things have headed for the wrong direction in Egypt over the past two years. There is reason for concern over the situation of human rights, democracy and legal protection in Egypt. The state has signed and ratified several international human rights conventions and has a duty to adhere to, and abide by these when working with new laws and enforcement thereof.

Seminar in Cairo

The Oslo Center will by President Kjell Magne Bondevik and expert in international law Vigdis Vevstad hold a seminar on 24th and 25th of June for members of the Shura Council. The theme is freedom of religion, freedom of expression, prohibition of torture, women’s rights, democracy-development and international law. The purpose is to discuss human rights, the understanding of these and how they should be implemented in national law and practice.

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