The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights issued a report entitled: ”Egypt…Economic Suffocation Propels Events at El Mahala”
April 10th, 2008 by EOHR
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights issued a report entitled “Egypt…Economic Suffocation Propels Events at El Mahala” on Thursday 10/4/2008. This report documents the results of a fact finding mission which was sent El Mahala city. Along with the results of the fact finding mission, the report includes background information on the state of Egypt on 6 April and other extensive analyses of the causes and motives of the escalation of events in El Mahala.
The report first argues that constitutional and legal guarantees ensure the right to strike and demonstrate peacefully. EOHR has led a campaign against the detentions that occurred during the stirke. There are 68 individuals who were detained in multiple governorates including: Port Said, Cairo, Kafr El-Sheikh, Alexandria, El Mansoura, and Mahala. There were 34 detainees subjected to the public prosecution in different cases. George Ishak, former General Coordinator of the Kefaya Movement, was the last detainee. He was arrested and taken by a civilian car to unknown destination and was held until 9th of April 2008.
The report confirms that the situation was most severe in the city of El Mahala which witnessed a wave of popular anger. Security forces dealt harshly with the demonstrators using tear-gas bombs. They arbitrarily detained large numbers of citizens (approximately 257 individuals). These events brought about an escalation of protest from many citizens, and actually led to some injuries. The Security Force response led to the death of Ahmed Hussein Abu El Azem (20 years old) and Ahmed Aly Mabrouk, (15 years old) who died while watching the events. He was injured by unknown gunfire while looking out an open window. Due to the shot, he fell out of the window and immediately his family took him to El Mahala hospital at 2:00 am on 8/4/2008 still in serious condition. He died after he reached the hospital as a result of his injuries.
The report attributed the events in el Mahala to the weak economy. The poor level of living conditions and the high level of prices compared to low wages along with high rates of unemployment all played a part. There are more than 5 million unemployed, university educated people in Egypt. The official number of unemployed persons in Egypt increased from 112,535 in 1950 to 5,000,000 at the beginning of this year. Unemployment has increased 4000% in the last 54 years according to statistics. As for poverty, the International Bank indicated that more than 60% of Egyptians live on less than 2 dollars a day and 25% live below the poverty line. The effects of privatization, the decline of the value of the pound against the dollar, the increase of deficit of the public exchange, the astronomically high domestic debt and the continued rise of prices of most goods and special commodities, such as food and sugar, continue to threaten or nation’s economy.
In addition to economic problems, other issues including the absence of democracy and the monopoly of power, political and economic reform process failings, restrictions on the freedom of political parties and civil society organizations, the suppression of general freedoms, falsifying the election process, the domination of the executive authority over the remaining powers, the absence of popular control, and the Emergency Law No. 162 of 1958 which has become a real constitution for the country, all played a role in contributing to the anger of the strikers.
At the end of this report, the Egyptian Organization confirmed that stopping peaceful demonstrations and the broad detentions by the government are dangerous indicators for the rights of peaceful assembly and the freedom of opinion, which is guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution and international covenants of human rights. EOHR views the escalation in El Mahala, the current economic crisis and the restrictions on Egyptian Society as indicators for a time to change. So the Egyptian Organization calls for a Campaign for the following recommendations:
1. The right to peaceful assembly and free demonstrations:
The Egyptian Government should take serious and effective steps to cancel Law No. 10/1914 and Law No.14/1923 and work on adopting an alternative bill to organize the rights of demonstrators and peaceful assemblies according to international and constitutional covenants.
2. The right of any group, organization or party to demonstrate in accordance with generally accepted rules such as:
a- Security bodies should be informed with the starting and end points of the demonstration along with the timing so as to take the necessary measures to protect the demonstration.
b- Demonstrators should be allowed to raise signs and slogans and meet journalists and representatives of news agencies.
3. Take all necessary steps to establish that individuals in Egypt are allowed to practice peaceful assembly and to protect them from arbitrary arrest and aggression from security forces.
4. Policemen and Egyptian security forces should undertake training courses to ensure their actions are within international standards. Security forces should also apply the laws stipulated in the United Nations blog for implementing laws and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms.
5. The Interior Minister should issue clear and strict instructions to security forces not to use force in demonstrations, he should specify that the use of batons and electric sticks, or the use of bullets either rubber or live, is unacceptable. The Minister should perform quick investigations against transgressors and submit them to a fair trial.
The Egyptian Organization calls the Attorney Prosecutor and the Interior Minister for:
1. The forensic report concerning the deaths of Ahmed Aly Mabrouk and Ahmed Hussein Abu El Azim, along with bringing the guilty person to the criminal court.
2-Investigations into those that attacked the demonstrators. 3. Personal freedom and security.
The campaign of arrests in the governorates of Egypt and El Mahala city are a clear violation to freedoms and personal security that is guaranteed not only in the Egyptian Constitution, but also in the international covenants of human rights. Article 41 of the Constitution stipulates that “Personal freedom is a normal right and it is guaranteed – except in the case of flagrant delicto – and it is unacceptable to arrest or detain, examine or restrict the freedom of someone except for a need to protect the security of society or through investigations and this measure shall be issued by the relevant judge or the public prosecution according to the rules of law.” Consequently, EOHR calls for the following:
- The immediate release of all detainees in all cases in the Egyptian governorates and El Mahala city especially, Goerge Ishak and Israa Abdul Fatah, in accordance with the Egyptian constitution and principles of human rights.
- The removal of the state of emergency and the return to normal law. 3- The acceleration of economic and political reform.
In the light of escalated events in El Mahala and the rest of the governorates of Egypt, the Government should speed up programs of economic and political reform, through a strategy based on:
• The need to stop the rising prices of goods, and the need to stop the continuous deterioration of the Egyptian pound, which leads to larger increases in prices.
• Increasing the minimum wage and linking this wage to prices, along with working on decreasing poverty levels and reducing the wide gaps in the distribution of wealth.
• Adding amendments to united Labor law No. 12 of 2003 to achieve a balance between workers and employers according to income levels and allowing the trade unions and non-governmental organizations that regulate and defend the interests of the workforce category the freedom they deserve
• Inviting the Egyptian government to join and ratify the conventions on the protection of workers and women, as well as activating the role of the Ministry of Labor concerning the investigations of workers’ complaints.
• Fighting unemployment and creating new job opportunities for graduates in both public and private sectors, and protecting social insurance funds.
• Developing quick solutions to stop the continued deterioration of health services provided to citizens, and investigating cases of financial and administrative corruption in the health sector. Further, perpetrators should be submitted to full investigations and officials should not apply decisions related to special treatment at the expense of the State. Health insurance should also provide medical care to poor and low-income families.
• Re-establishment of the concept of free education, especially in basic education, and eliminating the phenomena of private lessons which have become part of the budget of almost every home. It is also necessary to abolish physical punishment in schools as this is a violation of the dignity of the individual which is guaranteed by the Constitution and international covenants of human rights. Also, it is important to take care of teachers and raise their efficiency through preparing workshops and training courses. Teachers need a raise in wages and there needs to be a larger allocation of public resources for school construction and development, especially in rural and remote areas.
• The government should review its housing policies by enabling low-income people and the poor to get adequate housing which enjoys privacy, safety and health standards. The government should provide financial and in–kind compensations for the victims of coercive evacuation and housing demolitions and find alternative houses for citizens. It should also build new communities that meet the needs of young people
• Fighting corruption by canceling restrictions imposed on monitoring bodies and issuing a law to prosecute Ministers during their work in the ministry according to Article 159 of the Constitution. Also there is a necessity to lift restrictions imposed on the press which is hampered in their fight against corruption and to adopt the principle of transparency in addressing these issues.
On the political level, comprehensive change can only come through the achievement of democracy and the establishment of general freedoms and human rights. These will be achieved through the following:
• Adopting periodical parliamentary elections that are free and fair.
• Ensuring freedoms and human rights as stipulated in the international covenants.
• Canceling the state of emergency imposed since 1981 according to Emergency Law No. 162 of 1958 because of its harmful effects on human rights in Egypt.
• Putting a definitive end to the practices of torture and ill-treatment in police stations and sections.
• Abolishing the military court and all other exceptional courts.
• Providing adequate guarantees for a free and fair election.
• Providing for freedoms, especially the freedom of press, allowing for differing opinions, and canceling prison sentences for publishing crimes that the president had promised to abolish in February 2004.
• Providing for the freedom of political parties and civil society and issuing alternative legislation instead of Law No. 84 of 2002 and canceling law No. 100 of 1993 and law no. 40 of 1977 and its amendments.
• Establishing the principle of separation among the three authorities (executive, legislative and judicial)
To conclude, the reform that the Egyptian government should immediately adopt should meet the real needs of citizens. This reform should be comprehensive on the political and economic level as political reform and economic reform are interrelated. The fight for democracy, free press, and freedom of expression will bring about reforms against corruption. The government should hold a dialogue on a strategy of comprehensive reform with political and partisan forces to identify different national priorities and implementation mechanisms.
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