The announcement of the results of the Egyptian Legislative Reform Forum

February 25th, 2009 by Editor

A press conference was held on Wednesday 25/2/2009 by EOHR supported by the European Union to announce the results of the legislative reform forum.

 

Mr. Hafez Abu Seada, secretary general of EOHR clarified that the forum was established in January 2007 supported by the European union. The conference included professors of constitutional law, partisan leaders, members of People’s Assembly and shura council and human rights activists.

 

Abu Seada added that the forum aims at a set of goals as follows:

 

– Amending the current national legislations to comply with the international human rights standards provided in all international covenants concerned with  human rights, which were ratified by the Egyptian government under the Egyptian Constitution.

 

– Suggesting new bills according to the current situation and international human rights standards or to suggest alternative bills to replace the outdated laws which violates human rights, public freedoms and some of it violates the Constitution principles such as  the law of exercising  political rights, political parties law, Shura Council and People’s Assembly  law and law of NGOs, law of trade unions and the law of illegal assembly . Also it is necessary to work on canceling some ill-reputed laws such as the emergency law of 1958 which is a tool used by the executive authority  to violate the rights and public freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution  and international covenants on human rights, as we can say that this law became the actual Constitution of Egypt.

  

– Commenting on the bills presented by the government or members of the Parliament, as well as inviting those of experience and specialists to comment on it in order to represent it before the president of the Parliament,  Shura Council and the President of the Republic.

 

 

The forum was followed by three committees, including researchers and academicians, as follows:

 

1- The Committee of supporting the freedom of opinion and expression:

 

This committee aims at supporting the  freedom of opinion and expressions as well as developing the media through:

 

1- Eliminating or determining Egypt‘s reservations to international covenants concerning the freedom  of opinion and expression, since leaving it this way could result in the possibility of violating these covenants through the national legislations.

 

B –  Adding amendments to some constitutional provisions related to the freedom of opinion and expression, including Article 47, as this article was left to the normal legislator without monitoring which led to the issuance  of several legislations that did not organize ways to enjoy with that freedom . These legislations violated the freedom of opinion and expression through the prohibition of all forms of expression ( article  171 of the Penal Code ). Also Article 206 of the constitution which considered the press  as the Fourth Estate  while it doesn’t provide  an adequate independence, sovereignty and power paralleled to its capacity. 

 

 

C – Adding  legislative amendments related to the crimes of publishing and the freedom of information exchange, besides forming a national campaign  includes university professors and faculty staff  and representatives of civil society, trade unions and political parties aims at adopting the journalists syndicate bill  related to the abolishment  of imprison sentence in opinion and expression crimes .

 

 

D – Adding  legislative amendments to the articles which sentence   journalists to imprisonment  in all laws related to expression, publishing and printing distributed in several laws like the press law , the penal code , journalism organizing law , the Law of the civilian workers in the State , the prohibition of diffusing army news law, marital law , Parties law  and intelligent law.

 

 

E – The necessary for Canceling Mass Media subordination to the government bodies, and the necessary need for mass media( audio or video) to abide by subjectivity and neutrality , and  enlarging the area for private sector to participate in the activities of Mass Media, and establishing  an independent body for organizing the media  . As well as enhancing the performance of the national press organizations for the promotion of professional independence and efficiency . Also the necessary for  establishing a legal mechanism to question and convict those who   withhold information from journalist , and the prohibition of any restrictions imposed on the freedom of information flow , taking into the consideration the requirements of national security and the non- distinction to obtain information among different newspapers.

 

 


2 – The Committee of Supporting the judiciary independence and facilitating  litigation procedures :

 

 


Independence of the judiciary is one of the main bases  for the  regime system. The judiciary is the main  guarantee for applying  the  law and justice, this committee undertakes the following:

 

A – Amending the judiciary law  to ensure the independence of the judiciary away from the control of the executive body in accordance with  the Constitution and the principles of the United Nations concerning  the independence of the judiciary which confirmed by UN General Assembly decisions  Nos. 40/32 on 29 of  November  1985 and 40/146 on 13  December 1985, these decisions stipulate in articles 1, 8, 9 as follows :

 

 

Article (1): The State guarantees   the independence of the judiciary, and all governmental bodies should appreciate and respect the independence of the judiciary power.

 

Article (8): In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, members of the judiciary power, like other citizens should enjoy with the freedom of expression, thought, forming associations and meetings .

 
Article (9) Judges are free to form associations of judges or other organizations to represent their interests and enhance their professional training and to protect the independence of their institutions .

 

B – Working  on abolishing the Supreme Council for the judiciary and the system of Social General Prosecutor  and the subsequent cancellation for the  Court of values .Amendment  should be made for the Martial law No. 25 of 1966 for which military courts must be confined to trial only those who accused of military crimes .

 

 

3 – The Committee of Supporting the role of the parties.


Political parties is considered an  essential part  of any democratic system, and  one of the main channels for participation in the political life, and one of the basic tools to express about demands and expectations of citizens.

 

 

Political parties also have an important role in the development of political leaders ,and providing various candidates in the election, and stipulating programs and policies aimed at gaining the confidence of voters .

 

 
In order to strengthen and revitalize the political parties in
Egypt, this committee can work on the  following :

 


A – Canceling the Political Parties law  No. 40 of 1977 which makes the right to the political exercising  and the formation of parties is  useless from the practical side, and suggesting a new bill that makes the formation of parties under the control of the judiciary and natural judge in  accordance with the provisions of the Constitution ,and the establishment of parties  will be through notification in the frame work of limited definition for the party or the political assembly. And Political party is a subject of public law as soon as submitting the letter of its establishment . Once the body  has  received the notification of establishment , it has the  right to submit a case before the administrative judiciary court requesting not to establish the party if it lacks the conditions of establishment due to its violation to the principles of the Constitution or conditions .This case should be submitted during 15 days from receiving the notification of the establishment .The case is being allowed to be enclosed by a speedy request to stop the establishment of the party until the court takes its decision . Also the side that received the notification has a right to appeal for the issued decision before the supreme administration court under the condition that the case shouldn’t be examined more than on judiciary year . The party is considered already established if the case ,subject of discussion is exceeded the period mentioned . The bill determined the state council court to look into litigations between the party and governmental or non governmental sides  and between the party and its members .The bill called for canceling the committee of political party formed according to the law because it impedes the partisan life and most of its members are belonging to the National party . It is clear that the policy of this committee is set just for rejection and objection on establishing the new parties as a pretext of non- distinction . 

 

 

 B – Increasing the representative of the  political parties in the parliament through the adoption of constitutional and legislative amendments that allow for applying the best electoral system to achieve the target .

  

The committees have moved in a three parallel directions as follows :

First Direction: holding six seminars, workshops and discussions on various issues in Cairo, as follows:

1- Constitutional amendments and Elections in Egypt – 25.01.1007

2- Religious parties in Egypt, between support and rejection 5.2.2007

3- Would the Emergency law turn from being an exceptional law to a Constitutional provision- 13.2.2007

4- Constitutional amendments is a step forward or backward – 13.02.2007

5- The law of exercising  Political rights.. visions of parties and political powers and civil society organizations- 18.04.2007

6- Guarantees of the independence of judiciary and judges in Egypt- 30.04.2007

Second direction: Meetings of Committees:

The three committees held 21 meetings with seven meetings for each in the following governorates : (Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Damietta, Tanta, Assiut and Minya).

These meetings made the following recommendations:

First: The Committee of supporting the freedom of opinion and expression recommended the following:

– Reviewing the Fourth part of the second book of the Penal Code  Articles from No.171 to 201 related to the crimes sanctions committed by  newspapers and others.

– Abolishing imprisonment  penalties which related to the publishing crimes and replacing them with adequate fine,  if publishing conforms with public interests and preserves freedoms, rights, duties and respect for the private life of citizens.

 

– Reviewing law No.96 of 1996 on the regulation of the press, in particular part three of Chapter one on the duties of journalists and the fifth chapter of provisional regulations to guarantee the freedom of expression.

– Reviewing the Articles of law No. 20 of 1936 issued related to  publications which is still valid  by developing a legal mechanism or international conventions between Egypt and other states to monitor newspapers and publications licensed for Egyptians and others to be published and distributed in the state pursuant to the principle of equality in licensing for issuing newspapers or when criminalizing it for issuance without obtaining license, with facilitating the procedures for issuing to ensure standardization between Egypt and other states.

 

– Adopting a new law for the press, preserving Constitutional principles for the freedom and independence of the press and achieving balance between publishing the positive things in the society and revealing corruption.

 

– Adopting the principle of reconciliation in crimes committed through publishing  by newspapers and others  similar to what was adopted in crimes of  money and other crimes to protect journalists and what was published against them.

– Reviewing law No. 76 of 1970 of establishing a Journalists Syndicate, for it has been issued for more than 37 years, to conform with the current situations.  

Second: The Committee of Supporting the judiciary independence recommended the following:

– Reviewing the law of Judicial power  and other laws which regulate  the various judicial bodies in  order to unify it and working for its independence according to Article 166 of Constitution by prohibiting the assignment of judges to take any  jobs other than judicial jobs or to hold political position except after a sufficient period of leaving their job.

– Ensuring the non – encroachment of the executive authority over the  judicial or legislative power.   

– Reforming the judicial power  should not be away from political and constitutional reform in Egypt, as reforming the judiciary and the achievement of full judicial supervision on the electoral process would ensure the achievement of democracy during elections.

– Stating the independence of the Judges Club, as it considered the platform of judges.

– Providing general regulations to govern the appointment of judges as well as assigning them to judicial jobs, transferring  and training them, and their movements from one area to another.

– Establishing a scientific academy to accept graduates from the Faculty of Law and to prepare them technically and scientifically to be appointed as judges.

         Coming back to the separation between the investigation authority and the accusation authority in accordance with the criminal procedures law No. 150-1950 amended in 1952  so that the authority of investigation , appointment and imprisonment subjected to  judges chosen by general associations  for courts not for the public prosecution which based on the idea of residentially subordination to  Attorney General and this is incompatible with the independence  .

 

Third: Committee of Supporting Political Parties:

Abolishing the political parties law No. 40 of 1977 and its recent amendments and the enactment of a new law for parties that should include the following: 

– Establishing political parties by notification.

– Restrictions may not be imposed on the establishment of parties unless the purpose is to protect elements of the democratic society.

– Natural judiciary is the only jurisdiction  body.

– Dissolving  parties or freezing its activities is an exceptional process belongs to the natural jurisdiction only.

– According to penalties, the only reference is the Penal Code and not any other law.

– Developing the resources and funds of parties.

– Internal democracy is the responsibility of the General Conference of the party and its organs.

– the Influence and effectiveness in the political life is left for the people only to decide.

Third Direction: Publishing booklets:

The three committees have issued six booklets , with two for each committee and titles came as follows:

1- Egypt: towards a new law for  Political Parties.

2- Egypt: towards a new law for the freedom of press  in Egypt

3- Guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and judges in Egypt.

4- Political parties in Egypt… reality and future prospects.

5- Freedom of opinion and expression.. reality and future prospects

6- Law of economic courts, pros and cons.

Abu Seada confirmed that The project has succeeded in achieving many successes represented in the following:

 

           – Proposing bills for political parties , the press, the judiciary power, to replace the current laws .These bills were submitted to the parliament by EOHR.

 

 

          – The forum succeeded in getting the approval of several political and partisan               forces in the governorates ( Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Al Gharbia, Damietta, Al Menya, Assuit).                   

 

 

       The adoption of some members of People’s Assembly  the bills submitted by EOHR concerning laws that organize both of political parties, judges, journalists. The issue not only  confines to members in Cairo governorate but in other governorates as well.

       The participation of governmental parties in discussions ,committees meetings and workshops, whereof these parties need to identify the goal of the forum and its activities and to interact with the issued cases.

        The attendance level in committees meetings and workshops, as the attendance varies to include representatives of opposition political parties and the ruling party and also a number of consultants, judges and journalists, members of People’s Assembly and Shura council, also quoted a number of journalists who subjected to imprisonment sanction in the meetings of the freedom of opinion and expression committee.

       TV and the press coverage for the project , if the project achieved a media success in the Egyptian press whether the national or the opposition press and this will be through publishing reports and committees and workshops meetings, besides TV coverage for the event whether terrestrial or satellite channels.

 


 Abu Seada finished his speech by saying that despite the recent successes achieved by the forum in the framework of revising the Egyptian legislative structure and make it fit with the international covenants on human rights, the Egyptian legislative structure still full with laws which violate rights and freedoms. Among laws that need a radical change is the law of exercising political rights, the law of People’s Assembly and Shura Council, NGOs law NO. 84 -2002,Law No.100-1993, law of the trade union No 35 1976, the law of illegal assembly No. 10 1914, Law No . 14 1923, besides the state of emergency which has imposed since 1981in accordance with Emergency Law No. 162 1958 and the need to revise the article 179 of the Constitution as the last amendment to it in one way or another affect the articles 41, 44 and 45 of the Constitution, which guarantee fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.      

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