CAIRO - 13 November 2019: Head of Egypt's delegation Omar Marwan to its 3rd Universal Periodic Review session gave a speech on Wednesday regarding Egypt's record of human rights in light of its response to previous session's recommendations and obligations, at the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR).
Egypt's 3rd Universal Periodic Review session at the UNHCR - Press photo
Below is the full statement of the Marwan's speech
Your Excellency the Chairman, distinguished heads and members of delegations, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my honor to head the delegation of Egypt to review its third report before the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism of the Human Rights Council. This mechanism is based on interactive constructive dialogue, the exchange of experiences, discussion of ideas necessary for the development of ways and means to ensure support and promotion of human rights at the international level. The report that we are presenting today reflects our respect for our international obligations, and our strong belief in the importance of getting to know the views of our partners in the international community, as well as presenting the tangible achievements of Egypt in the field of respect, support and enhancement of human rights, and truly clarifying and explaining all issues and refuting any misconceptions or exaggerations.
Egypt's 3rd Universal Periodic Review session at the UNHCR - Press photo
In the second round of review, Egypt received 300 recommendations of which 224 were fully accepted, 23 were partially accepted, 23 were rejected, and we took note of 29, and considered one recommendation as inaccurate.
Egypt had exerted its utmost efforts for the past five years to implement the recommendations that it had accepted through a national comprehensive vision and basic dimensions according to the following principles:
1- Adopting a policy of protection, support and enhancement of human rights in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and in conformity with the obligations provided for in relevant international covenants, treaties and agreements, and abiding by national values, beliefs and identity, and continuously adopting an approach of gradation of our priorities, needs and available capacities, and observing the principles of equality and justice as well as providing equal opportunity to all citizens.
2- Supporting and promoting all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and maintaining a balance between all such rights, not allowing one right or group of rights to supersede at the expense of others.
3- Respecting prevalent diversities in the enjoyment of rights and freedoms in different communities according to traditions, circumstances, customs and values of each.
4- Understanding that enjoyment of rights is not absolute as stated in the Universal Declaration of Human rights and international covenants, but it should be enjoyed as provided by the law, a matter that necessitates accuracy in organizing such rights so that enjoyment of one right would not be at the expense of another. Taking into consideration all measures to maintain a balance between ensuring the rights and freedoms of citizens and the interests of the society, which is to be given preference in cases of conflict.
5- Ensuring the abidance of the legislative, executive and judicial authorities by the international covenants, treaties, agreements and instruments of human rights that the state has ratified in conformity with Article 93 of the constitution.
6- Full belief in the role of the National Council for Human Rights, The National Council for Women, The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, and the National Council for the Disabled, as well as civil society organizations as our partners in promoting the rights and freedoms of all citizens.
7- Full awareness of the importance of communication with all governmental and nongovernmental organizations working in the field of human rights to explain to them the true status so as to become aware of any excision or deficiency that may occur in the process of enjoyment of rights, provided that the rules of professionalism and objectivity are observed when asking questions or propagating news or issuing of data away from political status or personal interests and spreading rumors or playing with words. For example some use the term "Prisoner of Opinion" to describe a person who commits a crime of instigation of violence and hatred, spreading of rumors, or use the term "arrest of demonstrators" for incidents of legal arrest of persons who violate the Law of Demonstration by not notifying authorities in advance of organizing demonstration, or using the term "Political Crimes " to describe terrorist crimes, or the term "Collective Trials" to describe crimes where there are several perpetrators of a crime without the true description of a case, with the aim of propagating the wrong image that is far from true.
Egypt's 3rd Universal Periodic Review session at the UNHCR - Press photo
We shall now proceed to presenting the most important steps, which Egypt has adopted to implement the recommendations of the last review, and refer you for the details to the report submitted to you.
At the level of ensuring the civil and political rights of citizens: I am glad to announce that Egypt had submitted its report on civil and political rights to the Committee of Human Rights and has fulfilled its obligations in this respect
• Following the June 30 of 2013 revolution, a political road map has been drawn starting by the amendment of the Constitution in 2014, and the election of the President in the same year, and ending with the election of the People's Assembly. All of those elections were conducted under full supervision of the judiciary. Observers of these elections have testified to the neutrality and transparency which have prevailed in these entitlements, and consequently its results clearly reflected the true opinion of the people of Egypt.
• The presidential elections and the referendum for the constitutional amendments were conducted by the National Elections Committee, which is a completely independent authority made up of members of the judiciary, and a law establishing it to manage referendums and presidential, parliamentary and municipalities' elections, and to supervise them starting from the preparation of the data base of all Egyptians and ending with the announcement of the results.
• In the field of supporting and promoting freedom of the press and the media, several laws have been enacted in the past three years to organize the professional and institutional structure of the press, the media and the Syndicate of the Media. These laws provide for the independence of journalists and the media men and their freedom in fulfilling their messages, and ensuring that in practicing their work they would only be governed by the law. These laws also prohibit subjecting them to any punishment that deprive them of their freedom in crimes that occur when publishing publicly, with the exception of crimes of instigating violence or discrimination among citizens, or defaming individuals.
• In the implementation of the special recommendations for enhancing the right of peaceful demonstration, the law organizing the right of demonstration has been amended in 2017 to confirm the right of demonstration by the mere notification, and providing the judiciary the exclusive right of granting permission for the demonstration or postponing it, or amending its path. Such mandate had been earlier the authority of the Ministry of Interior. This important amendment is sometimes intentionally overlooked.
• In accordance with the provisions of the constitution determining the right of citizens to establish organizations or Civil Society Organizations, and strongly believing in the role which they play in developing the community, this year the law organizing civil activities has been enacted following a series of community debates and discussions so as to avoid the negative aspects of law No.70 for 2017.
• In the field of supporting and promoting the right of workers to establish trade unions to protect their rights in a legitimate manner, the law organizing Trade Unions granting workers the right to establish Trade Unions and prohibiting the dissolution of their boards of directors except by virtue of a court ruling was enacted. In 2019 this law was amended upon the proposals of International Labor Organization and all penalties depriving them of their rights have been cancelled from this law. Furthermore, the minimum number of members required to establish a Trade Union committee has been reduced to 50 workers, and the minimum requirements of members in all other trade union organizations has also been reduced.
• During 2016, the law organizing the building and restoration of churches was enacted and it includes, for the first time, the exact rules and regulations that should be applied to followed in order to obtain a permit to carry out any construction work at any given church. Up until the last month, the number of churches that the status of which has been legalized according to the provisions of this law is 1235 churches and service buildings attached to them.
• In the application of the constitutional and legal provisions of the subjection of all prisons and all detention places to judicial supervision, judges and members of the public prosecution have carried out 147 visits to prisons, and they followed the execution of the remarks that they had noted before. Moreover, a human rights department was set up at the office of the Public Prosecutor to be in charge of receiving complaints, notifications and reports which include any act that may be considered a violation of human rights, examining, studying, investigating them and taking the appropriate action. Moreover in conformity with article 214 of the Constitution and the Paris Principles of National Human Rights Institutions, the law of the National Council for Human Rights has been amended to ensure its independence as regards its composition, its fulfillment of its duties, and its budget. In addition to granting it the right to visit prisons and other places of detention, disciplinary and punitive institutions, and informing the public prosecution of any violations of human rights.
• At the level of combating any actions or practices relevant to torture, and in conformity of the provisions of the Constitution that all forms of torture are crimes that do not prescribe, and that anyone arrested or imprisoned shall not be subject to any torture or intimidation or suppression or morally or physically harmed. Egyptian legislation criminalizes all acts relevant to torture and enforces several penalties proportionate to the gravity of such act, and overlooking any evidence resulting from such torture. During the past five years, many criminal and punitive trials for incidents related to torture or any form of ill treatment have taken place. Our report submitted to your distinguished council includes data and numbers of these trials. Moreover a detailed report of this issue shall be submitted to the anti torture committee. This submission is in respect of our international obligations.
• Due to our strong belief in the importance of combating terrorism to safeguard the life and security of citizens, and at the same time ensuring the respect of human rights that are constitutionally and legally preserved with no delay, the laws of terrorist organizations and combating terrorism and the establishment of the Supreme Council for combating terrorism have been enacted. Due consideration has been given to the basic human rights that may not be violated even in cases of combating terrorism. This stand is based on a clear vision, that maintains a balance between combating terrorism and respect of these rights, by adopting definite rules and regulations to safeguard the general framework of procedures and enforcing the law through ensuring the supervision of the judicial authority, but not its sole power to carry out any procedure independently.
• In support and enhancement of economic social and cultural rights, the government has implemented a comprehensive plan for economic reform which lead to increasing the annual per capita income from 28,000 Egyptian Pounds in 2014 to 53,721 Egyptian Pounds in 2019, and the drop in the rate of unemployment from 12.8% in 2014 to 8.1% in the first quarter of 2019, and 7.5% in the second quarter of the same year. Moreover the monetary reserve of foreign currency has exceeded U.S. 45 billion which is an unprecedented figure. The prices of some basic commodities have dropped and the status of Egypt has improved on international rating lists, which is the true objective criteria for measuring the success of economic reform. Here we would like to express our great appreciation to the Egyptian people whose perseverance was the basic mainstay for achieving this success.
• As regards the efforts exerted to achieve social justice and reduce the poverty rate, the pensions of civil servants and both public and private sector employees has increased from 2014 to 2019 by 41%, the program entitled Takaful wa Karama (solidarity and dignity) has been launched to provide a social security network for poor families, old people, disabled persons, persons who are incapable of working and orphans. The number of beneficiaries of this program, is about 10 million citizens. Moreover in promoting the right of adequate homes and dignified life, the state has intensified its efforts to overcome the problem of informal housing and provide adequate, safe and healthy houses to citizens of all categories, providing them with safe and clean potable water.
• As regards providing medical care, the law of comprehensive health insurance has been enacted in 2017 which aims at providing a comprehensive gradual health insurance umbrella to cover all Egyptians, which is now being implemented in several governorates. In parallel to this procedure efforts are also exerted to improve the quality and efficiency of health institutions in other governorates. An initiative of 100 million heaths has also been launched to detect virus C and other diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. This initiative was hailed by international organizations working in the field of health for the positive results that this initiative has achieved. The government has also launched several campaigns for the promotion of the health of Egyptian women, students in schools, and prisoners in punitive institutions. The government has also launched a program to combat obesity, dwarfing and severe anemia for students under 12, free of all charges to safeguard the health of future generations.
• As to paying special care to some categories in the community, on the basis of strong belief in their role and their constitutional right of equality in rights, freedoms and general duties and the equality of opportunities without any discrimination the state has exerted the following efforts:
o In the field of political empowerment of women, the parliamentary elections have resulted in the election of 90 women, thus increasing the percentage of women members in the parliament to 15%. There are also 8 women ministers in the cabinet now, representing 25% of this cabinet. There are also 17 women assistant ministers, and for the first time two women have been appointed as governors. The women deputy governors represent 27% of deputy governors. Egyptian women have also been appointed in the judiciary. A woman also holds the post of adviser to the President for national security. All these efforts have been crowned by the constitutional amendments of 2019 allocating at least 25% of the seats in the parliament to women, as well as at least 25% of the seats in local councils to women. Furthermore in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, the law of the National Council for Women has been enacted to coordinate programs and activities and promote awareness and strengthen the values of equality and non discrimination against women to empower them to engage in all activities, and improve their economic and social status particularly in rural areas;
o In the field of strengthening and supporting the rights of the child, and in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, the government, in collaboration with the National Council for Women and nongovernmental organizations, has launched the National Strategy for Childhood and Motherhood 2018-2030 with an integrated developmental dimension to provide better basic services to children and improve the quality of their lives, providing special attention to children of poor families;
o In the field of promoting the rights of the disabled persons, the Law of the Disabled has been enacted to ensure their effective participation in all walks of life and ensure their enjoyment of all health, educational, professional and other rights. Furthermore in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, a law was enacted establishing the National Council for the Disabled to draw and implement programs and projects for the protection of their rights;
o In endeavoring to empower youth, as they are the locomotive for future development, the state ensured their participation in public life by allowing them to fill leading positions. The 2015 elections resulted in electing 59 youths to become MPs. Moreover, 41 youths have been appointed in the post of assistant minister, and 6 youths were appointed as deputy governors of whom 3 are women. Furthermore, 50% of the seats in specialized councils, directly accountable to the president, have been allocated to youths. The state has also empowered them economically by cooperating with the private sector in providing vocational training and work opportunities, and financing small, medium and micro enterprises. This has resulted in a drop in the rate of employment;
o The state has also provided dignified living standards to emigrants in Egypt -250 thousand refugees and asylum seekers from 55 different nationalities- in addition to about 5 million persons most of whom have fled from armed conflicts in geographically neighboring states, are now living in Egypt and have not asked for migrant status as they are easily assimilated in the Egyptian society. They are not isolated in camps and they enjoy all the basic services available to Egyptians, be it housing, health or education;
o In fulfillment of our international obligations in the field of combating illegal migration, a law was enacted in 2016 criminalizing all forms of smuggling of migrants, and acknowledging their right of voluntary repatriation. This law obliges the state to take all the necessary measures to safeguard their right. .The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood has become the legal representative of unaccompanied children, moreover the state has also established in 2017 a Coordinating National Committee to combat and prevent illegal migration and human trafficking. It has also launched a National strategy to combat illegal migration until 2026. These exerted efforts in this field have resulted in preventing any boat carrying illegal migrants from departing from the Egyptian coasts since the end of 2016;
o In full awareness of the dangers of corruption as a basic impediment for sustainable development and governance, a new position of Advisor to the President for combating corruption and executing the National Strategy for combating corruption 2014-2018 has been created. This was followed by the Strategy for 2019-2022 to upgrade the performance of public machinery and improve public services, and promote the principles of transparency. Furthermore, a number of legislations that support combating corruption and promote cooperation with the civil society and the private sector in this field, have been upgraded and enacted;
o In endeavoring to spread the principles of tolerance, understanding and peaceful coexistence several measures have been adopted, the most salient of which was the launching of the Forum for Moderate Tolerance and "The Universal Observatory to combat Extremism have been established with the aim of combating extremism and rectify wrong ideas. In this respect both Al Azhar and the Egyptian Orthodox Church continue their joint efforts under the initiative of " The House of the Egyptian Family" to promote the values and principles of citizenship for all, and to combat instigation of violence, discrimination and the discourse of hatred and extremism;
o In the field of endeavoring to strengthen contacts with the United Nations Agencies and other organizations that are engaged in the field of human rights, the government has submitted to your distinguished council in its thirty seventh session of 2018 a mid-term voluntary report. It has also submitted the periodical obligatory reports to the committees of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, the Agreement for Combating Torture, and the Agreement to combat all forms of discrimination against Women (CIDAW), the Agreement for the Rights of the Child, the Agreement for the Protection of the Rights of Disabled Persons. In this same respect, The Supreme Permanent Committee for Human Rights has been established under the Chairmanship of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to be exclusively responsible for the total supervision of the whole file of human rights, and to follow up the fulfillment of the obligations provided by the relevant international agreements.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen
o The issues that have been reviewed in the time available to me today represent only a small part of the genuine efforts and measures adopted by Egypt to promote and protect basic human rights and freedoms. We are confident that the report we are submitting shall inform you of all the details of these efforts that have been exerted not only in fulfillment of our relevant international obligations but in fulfillment as well of the demands of the people as embodied in the Constitution. We further confirm that Egypt is taking long strides to fulfill more of the aspirations, rights and freedom of our people to have a safe dignified life, where all their rights and freedoms are safeguarded in spite of the economic challenges, terrorist activities and regional upheavals that are known to all.
o In conclusion, I wish to thank you for your indulgence, and the Egyptian delegation stands ready to respond to all your queries so as to fulfill our joint aspiration of promoting the status of human rights all over the world.