The Arab Organization for Human Rights
A shadow report to the Arab republic of Egypt’s periodic report to the UN Human Rights Committee
The Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) submits this report to the UN Human Rights Committee as a response to Egypt’s periodic report which will be reviewed during the 137th session (February – March 2023). AOHR finished working on this report on the 20th of January, 2023.
AOHR is an international nongovernmental organization that focuses on the strengthening and protecting human rights as well as promoting human rights culture. Founded in 1983 AOHR is the oldest human rights organization in Egypt, and it was legalized through a headquarters agreement signed with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign affairs in May 2000.
AOHR has branches in 16 Arab and many European states, and has individual members hailing from around 73 countries. AOHR also attained an ECOSOC consultative status in 1989 making it the oldest Arab NGO to attain it. Moreover, AOHR is an NGO partner of UNESCO, an observer at the African Committee for Human and People’s Rights, an Observer at the League of Arab States and the oldest partner of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Arab region and the Middle East.
1) AOHR appreciates the government of the Arab Republic of Egypt’s decision to for submit its periodic report to the UN Human Rights Committee. However, AOHR also expresses its deep disappointment at the government’s failure to submit its periodic reports to the committee for over 18 years, as it constitutes a nonfulfillment of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil Rights and Political Rights (ICCPR).
AOHR understands the extraordinary circumstance Egypt has witnesses in from January 2011 up until mid-2014, however the government’s failure to submit its report from 2002 to 2010 and 2014 to 2019 remains inexplicable.
2) AOHR reaffirms its concern about the delays in reforming the Egyptian Penal Code, as this has failed to materialize despite the dialogues AOHR engaged with the executive, legislative and judicial authorities on this subject, especially during the period from 2017 to 2020.
AOHR is particularly concerned about the increase in legal articles that allow the use of the death penalty in a manner that contradicts the obligation to limit its application to the most severe crimes, and also contradicts the global trend towards abolition or voluntary suspension of capital punishment. Consequently, this led to a high number of executions, and hundreds waiting on death row for prolonged periods sometimes reaching 24 years.
AOHR recommends abolishing the death penalty for the crimes of drug trafficking and replacing it with alternative penalties. AOHR also stresses the necessity of retracting some legal articles that specified the death penalty as the only punishment for some crimes, in a way that restricts the judiciary’s hand in using alternative punishments.
AOHR calls for adopting the approach followed by the Egyptian President in approving death sentences as a basis for making amendments related to the penalty, especially with regard to not ratifying final sentences in drug crimes and refraining from ratifying the majority of crimes related to murder, premeditation and terrorism, except for some of them that led to loss of human lives.
AOHR though this report once again reminds the government of the Arab Republic of Egypt of its acceptance of recommendation No. 106 of the Universal Periodic Review (March 2020), which stipulates “considering seeking to suspend the implementation of death sentences.”
AOHR expresses its deep concern due to the Egyptian government’s reluctance to amend articles in the penal code that incriminate torture, namely article 126 and 129. AOHR appreciates Egyptian national efforts to strengthen legal and administrative accountability in this regard since 2015, yet legal reform is one of the main guarantees to success and effectiveness of these efforts.
AOHR expresses its concern about the lax enforcement of Articles 280 and 282 of the Penal Code related to accountability for illegal detention crimes during periods of initial detention and before being brought to judicial review, especially since the violation of these two articles without accountability led in previous years to an increase in allegations of “enforced disappearances.”
AOHR welcomes the President’s decision not to renew the state of emergency in late 2021, and stresses the need to review judicial verdicts that were issued by state security courts in the period between April 2017 and October 2021, especially those that were not issued in crimes related to violence that led to loss of life. Such a step would be logically consistent with the achievements of the presidential pardons committee which secured the release of around 1200 detainees, some them already had received final sentences, while others were in pretrial detention.
3) AOHR welcomes the government initiative to submit a draft new criminal procedures law. AOHR urges the Egyptian parliament to put the draft law up for official consultations before issuing it in light of recommendations submitted by AOHR to the governmental supreme committee of legal reform. These recommendations were issued in a conference organized by AOHR on the amendment of the criminal procedures law in December 2016 as well as number of workshops held by AOHR in 2018 and 2019 that witnessed the participation of representatives from the judiciary, parliament and the government. AOHR also urges the government to approve the presidential pardons list of detainees who were not charged with violent crimes it submitted to the presidential pardons committee.
4) AOHR welcomes the new philosophy of rehabilitation and correction the government adopted to enhance and develop the prison system over the past two year. AOHR visited the new correctional and rehabilitation centers and witnessed the positive developments. AOHR call upon the government to keep allowing human rights NGOs to visit different prisons.
5) AOHR expressed its deep concern over the government’s failure to issue the law on the free access to information. AOHR is also concerned about the Supreme Council for Media Regulation’s penal charter that allowed the authorities to block hundreds of websites.
AOHR call for the issuing of the aforementioned law as it constitutes the cornerstone of correcting the flaws in the penal charter of the Supreme Media Council regarding freedom of thought, faith and opinion.
6) AOHR expresses its deep disappointment the government’s failure to respond to its calls for the abrogation of freedom depriving penalties stipulated in the law on peaceful assembly. Amendments were made to the law in April 2017 in accordance with a ruling from the Supreme Constitutional Court, yet such penalties still exist in an unnecessary manner as the penal code already punished crimes related to subversive actions and violence during peaceful gatherings.
7) AOHR views favorably government efforts to promote citizenship values and combat discrimination. AOHR also welcomes steps to empower women economically and politically as well as measures taken to combat violence against them. Moreover, AOHR welcomes measures to empower persons with disabilities.
AOHR urges the government of Egypt to continue adopting such progressive policies, and calls for the harshening of legal penalties for depriving women from their inheritance. AOHR also stresses the importance of increasing the representation of persons with disabilities in the workforce especially in the private sector.
In conclusion AOHR expresses its appreciation for the inclusion of the majority of its suggestions and recommendations in the National Human Rights Strategy 2021-2026, which marks the beginning of a serious stage in the progress of human rights in Egypt. In this context AOHR calls on the authorities to set a timetable for achieving the commitments stipulated by the strategy in relation to civil and political rights, particularly the issuing of a new Criminal Procedures law, the Access to Information Law, and the reform of the Penal Code.
AOHR appreciates strides made by the Arab Republic of Egypt in the field of development despite the global economic crises, and the progress it made in civil, economic, social and cultural rights, AOHR further affirms that the way is now paved for making progress in promoting political rights with the removal of most of the challenges that hindered its progress in previous years.