Priorities for the President’s First 100 Days in Office: Reinstatement of the rule of Law, Judicial Independence, and State Neutrality Toward Religions and Faiths

The undersigned rights organizations congratulate the Egyptian people on the inauguration of the first elected civilian president in Egypt’s history, following competitive elections that were deemed to be fair overall despite the challenges raised. We salute the martyrs and the thousands injured during the January 25 Revolution as well as the hundreds that were later wounded and killed in the successive battles for freedom, full democracy, respect for human rights, and the end of military rule. This ongoing resistance was able to force the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to move up the transfer of power to elected civilian institutions to late June 2012, nearly a year earlier than previously planned. Were it not for those who gave their lives and sacrificed their sight in the protests on Mohammed Mahmoud Street in November and at the Cabinet building in December 2011, presidential elections and the power transfer would have been delayed to June 2013.

While we congratulate Dr. Mohammed Morsy, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, on his presidential victory, we stress that the president must adopt an ambitious program that responds to Egyptians’ aspirations and the enormous sacrifices they have made over the decades for the sake of freedom, social justice, and human dignity. He must seriously address Egypt’s legacy of human rights crimes, which did not cease with the ouster of Mubarak and some members of his regime. He must also deal with the challenges created by the mismanagement of the country’s affairs during the transitional period, including the supplementary constitutional declaration introduced by SCAF in the run-up to the announcement of election results in which SCAF established itself as the guardian of the process of drafting the new constitution, reclaimed legislative authority, and effectively turned the military establishment into a state within a state by granting it autonomous decision-making powers not subject to accountability. This is the result of the SCAF’s misguided roadmap from the beginning, the latest development of which is the election of a president without clear prerogatives and authorities.

For the elected president to meet these challenges, he must rebuild bridges of trust with broad sectors of the Egyptian population which, for various reasons, did not vote for him in the recent elections.

he undersigned rights organizations welcome Dr. Mohammed Morsy’s initiative to adopt a 100-day program, but we note that it does not address the severity of the challenges currently facing Egypt, particularly in regards to human rights. The 100-day plan shows no interest in improving civil and political rights and offers no clear vision for the advancement of citizens’ economic and social rights; nor does it offer any practical solutions for the pressing crises created by the transitional period under SCAF’s rule, including the following:

 A.    The issuance of several pieces of legislation by SCAF that constitute a breach of human rights, including:

  1. A supplementary constitutional declaration, issued on June 17, 2012, that places the military establishment above all other state institutions and authorities.
  2. Decree 4991 of the Minister of Justice, issued on June 13, 2012, which granted judicial powers of arrest to officers and members of military intelligence and the military police; the decree was suspended by order of the Administrative Court.
  3. Law 34/2011, issued on April 12, 2011, which criminalizes strikes and sit-ins by criminalizing assaults on the right to work and damaging common facilities.
  4. Law 10/2011, issued on March 10, 2011, which criminalizes peaceful protests and demonstrations in the name of suppressing “thuggery”.
  5. The approval of a state budget by military decree that differs little from those of successive Mubarak governments in its bias in favor of the interests of the rich and foreign investors and its neglect of the poor and marginalized.
  6. The passage of a law permitting reconciliation with businessmen accused of corruption at the expense of the public treasury.

During the same period, the SCAF, with the cooperation of the recently dissolved People’s Assembly, also:

 

  1. Obstructed the issuance of a law on trade union freedoms prepared by the former Minister of Manpower, Ahmed al-Borai, in conjunction with rights organizations and independent trade unions. After the election of the People’s Assembly in January 2012, the majority parties in the assembly refused to adopt the bill.
  2. Refrained from adopting a new judiciary law submitted by the Supreme Judicial Council to ensure the independence and autonomy of the judiciary. After its election in January, the People’s Assembly delayed the adoption of the bill.
  3. Refrained from adopting a law to restructure the police and reform the security apparatus which had been submitted by a group of police officers in conjunction with human rights defenders and lawyers. After the election of the People’s Assembly in January, progress on the bill was delayed and several amendments were made to the law instead, which effectively do little to achieve the desired objectives.
  4. Pressured the People’s Assembly into refusing to comprehensively amend the military code to prohibit the referral of civilians to military trials, in June 2012, revising only a provision that previously permitted the president to make such referrals and leaving the military courts as the sole and absolute authority to determine the scope of their jurisdiction.

 B.     Ongoing human rights violations during the transitional period, as seen most prominently in the following:

 

  1. The massive expansion of military trials for civilians. More than 12,000 civilians were referred to military courts from February to September 2011, among them a number of minors.
  2. Continued use of torture in police stations, prisons, and detention facilities run by the military police.
  3. Sexual violations, including the rape of detained women who were subjected in March 2011to “virginity tests” by the military police, a practice previously unheard of in Egypt.
  4. The use of excessive, lethal force to suppress peaceful protests, including running over peaceful protestors with military police vehicles.
  5. The increasing politicization of the judiciary, resulting in its inability to hold accountable those responsible for human rights crimes before, during, and after the revolution.
  6. The involvement of the judiciary in political battles. The military judiciary was used to strike at political activists opposed to the SCAF while the civilian judiciary was used against human rights groups following an orchestrated media campaign to defame them and lay the groundwork for their prosecution on false charges.
  7. The continuation of a foreign policy, particularly by the Egyptian permanent mission to the UN in Geneva, that defends dictatorships and adopts a recalcitrant stance on UN resolutions to promote and protect rights and liberties in Arab and non-Arab countries.

The ability of the president to build alliances and mobilize various forces around an ambitious program that responds to the goals of the revolution and aspirations for democratization depends on a strong political will to make a clean break with past practices, reinstate the rule of law and judicial autonomy, promote principles of citizenship among all, adopt a rights-based discourse that evinces the values of the civil state and democracy, and establish the neutrality of all state institutions toward different opinions, political views, ideologies, religions, and faiths.

As such, the undersigned organizations propose that the president take the following measures in the next 100 days:

   I.            Decrees that should be issued/revoked by the president:

  1. Revoke Decree 348/2012 issued by the SCAF on June 14, 2012 on the formation of the National Defense Council. In its current form, this council is dominated by military representatives while the prerogatives of the council are related to supreme national interests. The SCAF issued the decree in its capacity as interim president; therefore, the elected president has the right to amend or repeal the decree.
  2. Immediately release all prisoners of conscience and review the status of convicted persons to guarantee that those prosecuted before exceptional courts will be retried before their natural judge.
  3. Repeal Decree 156/1964 of the Interior Minister regulating the use of firearms, which permits the use of live ammunition to disperse demonstrations, and replace it with a new decree that complies with international standards for maintaining security, which prohibit the use of firearms and live ammunition during demonstrations and public disturbances and strictly regulate their use in all other situations.
  4. Take action on several international human rights conventions under Article 56, paragraph 6 of the constitutional declaration, most importantly:

  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and declare Egypt’s commitment to Articles 21 and 22 of the convention.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
  • Withdraw the reservations to Articles 2, 16, and 29 of CEDAW.
  • Ratify the Protocol on the Rights of Women of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Ratify the Third Optional Protocol of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • Withdraw the reservations to Articles 12(1), 20, 22(1), 23, and 24 of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
  • Ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court.
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights establishing the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
  • Ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
  • Open a regional office for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Egypt, thus fulfilling a government pledge made nearly 18 months ago.

  II.            Steps the president must refrain from taking:

 

  1. Making pledges of immunity to military leaders, officers, and recruits for crimes committed since the SCAF assumed control of the country and revoke this immunity if any such pledges have been made.
  2. Issuing any laws or decrees that conflict with international human rights conventions.

 III.            Directives the president should give to his prime minister and other respective ministers:

  1. Abolish the intervention of security services in the activities of political parties, unions, and civil society and end their interference in the appointment of academic faculty and personnel, stop administrative and security interference in the election processes of university faculty clubs and student unions, and uphold the right of students to write new bylaws for student unions.
  2. Refer any police officers and personnel convicted for crimes and sentenced to prison to reserve duty, specifically those reinstated in the Interior Ministry prior to January 25, 2011.
  3. Enable human rights organizations and the National Council for Human Rights to visit prisons and police stations to inspect detention facilities, both those operated by the Interior Ministry and those belonging to the armed forces, and to assess detainee conditions.
  4. Stop all forms of arbitrary bureaucratic obstacles currently facing civil society organizations  and refrain from administratively dissolving NGOs and civic associations.
  5. Immediately terminate the position of Minister of Information and take measures to end the control of the executive over state-owned media.
  6. Stop all forms of media incitement against religious or sectarian communities.
  7. Stop all forms of media propaganda and racist campaigns that foment xenophobia and acts of violence against foreigners.
  8. Take all necessary steps to guarantee all citizens and residents a minimum level of economic, social, and cultural rights, especially the right to food, potable water, plumbing, healthcare, housing, education, and work, and take action to implement a minimum and maximum wage.
  9. Implement the court ruling dissolving the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, run by the security apparatus and the former ruling party.

10. Undertake a radical reassessment of Egypt’s foreign policy on human rights, including by directing Egyptian diplomats abroad, especially representatives at the UN and the UN Human Rights Council, to refrain from taking any stances in solidarity with nations that commit human rights crimes.

11. Cooperate fully with UN human rights procedure, including through approving pending requests for visit to Egypt filed by various  different Special Procedures on various rights and liberties.

  IV.            Promises that should be made by the president himself:

 

  1. Respect and implement international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt. The president must publicly make this commitment clear, instead of sufficing with general promises to respect international conventions. Under the previous president as well as under SCAF, Egypt  has only sought to reassure the US and Israel about its commitment to upholding the Camp David Accords. Given Egypt’s poor human rights record and the doubts that many in Egypt and the international community harbor about an Islamist President and the degree to which he will comply with international human rights standards, it may be appropriate for the president to reiterate his commitment to human rights before the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Such an initiative would  explicitly affirm a break with Egypt’s past and its hostile policies towards human rights under Mubarak and the SCAF.
  2. Uphold the right to peaceful assembly and protest of all kinds and require the security apparatus to secure protests and protect participants.
  3. Encourage the appointment of women in senior political and administrative positions and their representation in elected assemblies commensurate with their forming half of the population. Take the necessary measures to confront incitement against women and measures of exclusion in the public sphere.
  4. Guarantee religious freedoms, end arbitrary restrictions on the right of some religious and sectarian minorities to worship and perform rituals intimately related to their religious identity, end arbitrary restrictions on the construction of houses of worship which have been imposed on those who follow a religion other than Sunni Islam, and protect their right to declare their religious beliefs and worship freely.

  1.     V.            Laws which the president should direct the government to urgently prepare to be submitted to the new People’s Assembly immediately upon its election:

  1. The law on the independence of the judiciary written by the Supreme Judicial Council.
  2. A law amending provisions of Law 25/1966 on the military judiciary to prohibit the referral of civilians to military courts. The changes made to the law by the parliamentary majority, in conjunction with the SCAF, did not resolve this issue. The law should stipulate that all pending or concluded cases involving civilians which came before military courts be referred to the civilian judiciary.
  3. The NGO law drafted by 56 rights organizations and discussed within the Human Rights Committee of the dissolved parliament.
  4. The law on trade union freedoms written by former minister of manpower Ahmed al-Borai in cooperation with civil society groups.
  5. The law restructuring the police and reforming the security apparatus which was prepared by a group of police officers in conjunction with rights defenders and lawyers.
  6. The unified law on places of worship prepared under the supervision of the first post-revolution government, taking into consideration the observations of al-Azhar, churches, and human rights groups.
  7. A comprehensive anti-discrimination law that includes mechanisms for monitoring discrimination, positive prevention measures, and instruments to investigate complaints and bring justice to victims.
  8. An audiovisual media law that grants the authority to license media outlets to a national council composed of independent, competent figures that is not subject to executive oversight. The law establishing this council should uphold the right of judicial review of any of its resolutions while also guaranteeing the restructuring of the audiovisual media field to promote pluralism, competitiveness, and free democratic expression and transformation of the state-owned audiovisual media into public-service institutions with administrative, funding, and programming autonomy. The council should be managed by a socially representative board.
  9. The law discussed in the Human Rights Committee of the People’s Assembly that removes legislative and administrative restrictions on the freedom of information, upholds the right of citizens to know, access, and publish information, and includes punitive provisions for any person who obstructs access to information. No law that restricts the right to information should be approved.

10. A revision to the Penal Code and all relevant laws to abolish all liberty-depriving penalties and pre-trial detention for press and publication crimes, including for the crime of insulting the President of the Republic. The Penal Code and publications law must be reviewed to prevent their use to criminalize or suppress freedom of opinion, expression, or media.

11. A law establishing an independent judicial commission for truth and transitional justice, to investigate and receive complaints on all crimes of corruption and human rights abuses committed before and after January 25. The authorities should guarantee the autonomy and neutrality of the commission and facilitate its work in every way.

12. Abolish Law 4/2012, issued by the SCAF only a few days before the inaugural session of the People’s Assembly, which permits the reconciliation with businessmen accused of corruption.

13. A law establishing an independent anti-torture commission with broad prerogatives to conduct periodic visits, announced and unannounced, to police stations and detention facilities; amendments approved by the Legislative Committee in the People’s Assembly which amend the definition of torture to be compliant with international standards and stiffen the penalties to be commensurate with the abhorrent nature of the crime of torture.

14. A law forming a national commission for the care and compensation of martyrs’ families and those injured in the January 25 revolution and in the protests and demonstrations that followed, with representation for rights groups and martyrs’ families.

15. An amendment to the law on the National Council for Human Rights, requiring the competent ministries to provide it with the necessary information and reports and respond to citizen complaints referred to them by the council, and revising the formation of the council to guarantee real independence, specifying that at least two-thirds of its members, including the president and vice-president, must come from non-governmental organizations recognized for their independence.

16. A holistic health insurance law that reforms the health sector to separate service from funding, with a clear plan for the funding of health services to guarantee citizens fair access to quality health services without discrimination.

  1.  VI.            Recommendations which the president should make to various bodies that falls outside the scope of his constitutional and legal jurisdiction:
  2. To the president of the military judiciary: A recommendation to refer all civilian cases before military investigative bodies to the Public Prosecutor and to immediately suspend the implementation of death sentences and prison terms for all minors.
  3. To the Public Prosecutor: A recommendation to review the files of those convicted in military trials, resulting in their retrial before a civilian judge or their release.
  4. To the Constituent Assembly: A recommendation to comply with international human rights standards and conventions.

Signatories:

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS).
  2. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.
  3. Appropriate Communications Techniques for Developments (ACT).
  4. Arab Penal Reform Organization.
  5. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
  6. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA).
  7. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement (EACPE).
  8. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR).
  9. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR).

10. Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination (MARED).

11. Group for Human Rights Legal Assistance.

12. Hesham Mubarak Law Center (HMLC).

13. Nazra for Feminist Studies.

14. New Woman Foundation (NWRC).

15. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)).

16. The Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions.

17. The Human Rights Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners.

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