UN side event at 27th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council

September 25th, 2014 by Editor

Within the framework of the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council, the International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD) and the Ecumenical Alliance for Human Rights and Development (EAHRD) organized a side event on “Demonstration Laws and Freedom of Expression in Egypt and around the World†on 15th September 2014 at the United Nations Office (UNOG) in Geneva.

The event provided the space to clarify and discuss the current situation of freedom of expression in Egypt especially after the new law on demonstrations, which created local and international controversy. The panelists who attended the 27th Session of the Human Rights Council presented different perspectives to representatives of civil society and the public.

Dr. Hafez A bu Saada, prominent member of the Egyptian National Human Rights Council, spoke about the current processes regarding the progress of the human rights situation and human rights laws in Egypt. He confirmed that the new constitution includes articles guaranteeing all international human rights treaties that Egypt has signed such as the freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly. He also stated that the National Egyptian Human Rights Council is participating in drafting such laws and ensuring that they are in accordance with international human rights standards.

Mr. Hani Labib, a journalist and political analyst, spoke about the importance of media being objective and reflecting both the challenges and realities on the ground especially when it comes to human rights issues. Political agendas that are implemented through some media channels contribute in creating tensions and conflicts.

Dr. Ahmad Abdel Halim, a political expert, and Mrs. Marg aret Azer, member of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights stressed on the fact that Egypt is on a reforming progressive way to more democracy and elaborated on how, slowly but surely, this current transitional period is critical for its future. The Egyptian people and their newly elected administration need the support of the international community and its encouragement to respond to the current challenges and overcome long decades of obstacles in the struggle for human rights.

Mr. Ihab Youssef, security expert and general secretary of People & Police for Egypt, a nongovernmental organization, presented a comparative study of demonstration laws and realities in various states such as in Europe, North America and Asia. He stated that in all cases, there are two different collective expressions, one is through peaceful assemblies and another is through violent demonstrations. In Egypt, as in other countries, peaceful assembly is the right of protesters to express their views and voice their grievances and changing aspirations. However, the law punishes the use of violence in any form of deliberate attacks against the police and the civilians during protests. Any government administration and/or police security are responsible for protecting the lives of the civilians whenever and wherever violence is used. This applies to Egypt as well as the rest of the world including countries of the EU such as the UK and in North America such as the USA.

The aim of the event was to reflect the reality of the demonstration laws and the freedom of expression in Egypt through different perspectives. Among the issues addressed was the threat of extremists, especially followers of fanatic religious groups, motivated by political agendas, who have abused freedom of expression towards incitement to hatred through disinformation tactics, propaganda, and manipulation campaigns. We believe it is the responsibility of civil society orga nizations to be objective and transparent in identifying violations against human rights and presenting recommendations that help human rights defenders improve the current laws.
It is also the responsibility of non-governmental organizations to help clarify controversial issues and provide the necessary space for discussion and dialogue on national and international platforms.

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