Seven human rights organisations decided not to take part in the UN session to review Egypt's human rights file yesterday. The organisations decided not to send representatives or to participate in any activities on the periphery of the session fearing retaliatory measures or prosecution as a result of such participation.
A number of these organisations have cancelled the conferences they had planned on the periphery of the review, especially in light of the climate they described as hostile to the work of independent human rights organisations.
In a joint statement issued by the boycotting organisations they noted that they were content with what the congress of independent human rights organisations submitted of recommendations to the Egyptian government in the second round of the review that is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland.
They said in their statement: "This session comes five days after the ultimatum issued by the Egyptian government to what it called non registered organisations so as to register themselves in accordance with Law 84 for the year 2002 prior to the 10 November. A number of the signing organisations sought to have a dialogue with the government and meet the prime minister to discuss withdrawing the ultimatum and postponing it until after a new law that is consistent with the constitution and with Egypt's international obligations is issued so as to enable the organisations to register according to it or permit these organisations to continue working according to the existing legal format within whose framework they are registered. However, all these efforts were met with rejection on the part of the government which published another advert in Al-Ahram newspaper on 26 October affirming that postponing the ultimatum and extending the time allocated for registration are not for discussion."
The statement went on to say: "We see the review as an opportunity to open dialogue with the Egyptian government on different issues with the participation of the United Nations in order to improve the human rights conditions in Egypt and help the country build a strategy for the forthcoming four years in order to improve the human rights situation. It would seem this is something the government perceives to be aimed at undermining its international standing."
The organisations also see that the government's preparations for the regular universal review this year are radically different, regrettably, from those that were made during the first round of review in 2010."
The independent organisations believe that the mechanism of the periodical review to which all member states of the United Nations are subjected is an opportunity for each state, including Egypt, to enter into a constructive dialogue in which governments and various civil society institutions take part and that lead to a set of recommendations to encourage states to compete among themselves over respect for the rights of citizens.
They said: "The human rights situation in Egypt cannot be separated from the objectives of attaining stability and development that are aspired for by all Egyptians, people and government. It is political and civil rights that bolster citizenship, participation, stability and legitimacy and it is economic and social rights that reinforce the ability of the citizen to attain a decent living, to work and produce. It is these rights that help achieve a real victory in the war against terrorism, poverty and marginalisation."
The statement was signed by the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Cairo Centre for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Institution for Freedom of Thought and Freedom of Expression, Egyptian Women Issues Institute and Nazra for Women Studies.
In a related development, an informed source in the Egyptian Revolutionary Council has disclosed some details regarding the Revolutionary Council's moves in Geneva as part of the meetings to discuss the Human Rights Review for Egypt at the UN Human Rights Council.
In a statement to Arabi21, the source said that the council met with the delegations of the United States and the European Union as well as with the diplomatic missions of the Netherlands, Germany and other countries and explained to them the humanitarian situation and the human rights conditions in Egypt and demanded the adoption of serious steps and not just words of denunciation and condemnation.
He added that the Revolutionary Council demanded the diplomatic missions impose restrictions on the movement of President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi to deny him access to the US because leaving things the way they are now would amount to consenting to the murder, torture and detentions that take place without the due process of the law and without holding those responsible accountable.
The source, who requested anonymity, also said that during the meeting with the American mission the issue of Muhammad Sultan was raised. It is known that Obama did not pay any attention to Sultan's plight and did not call for his release despite having earlier asked for the release of activist Ahmad Maher.
He also said that they raised many question marks around the international community's silence regarding what happened to President Mohamed Morsi and asked: "Are these practices considered natural or acceptable by them? And what if they were to sentence him to death on the basis of these feeble charges? And what if they went ahead and carried out all these comic sentences?"
He noted that the team is accompanied by Ahmad Budair, who is an American citizen whose brother was murdered during the storming of Rabaa Al-Adawiya.
The Revolutionary Council's delegation comprises in addition to Abd Al-Latif the following: Dr Maha Azzam, the Council's head, Dr Amr Darrag, the senior leader in the Freedom and Justice Party, Dr Osama Rushdi, the senior leader in the Construction and Development Party, and British lawyer Toby Cadman.
Translated from Arabi21, November 5, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.