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The Egyptian Human Rights Council:
The Apple Falls Close to the Tree


By: Ahmed Qenawy
Lawyer and legal researcher

[email protected]

      Those who had high expectations for the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights were disappointed a few weeks after the council started its actual activity. The reason was that when the council's 25 members held a meeting to discuss a recommendation-just a recommendation-to eliminate the Emergency Law, they voted with an absolute majority against the recommendation and for the continued existence of the Emergency Law.

      As a consequence of the council's vote, the bodies and institutions who should be opposed to the Emergency Law and calling for its elimination have come to accept it.

The Emergency Law has gained a new and distinguished characteristic-it has found a legitimacy of which it had been deprived for the last few decades. The National Council for Human Rights has the privilege of being the first organization to grant this veneer of legitimacy to the Emergency Law and to the many violations committed under its aegis.

      Those with more realistic hopes of the council found the vote against the recommendation all too predictable. It is, after all, difficult to believe those responsible for humans rights violations when they speak about human rights.

      The Council was not able to maintain the misconceptions of ordinary people for long. All too quickly, it presented its true attitude towards this very critical issue, illustrating that it is, indeed, a governmental council, fit only to hold its meeting in the Ministry of Interior. The truth has been revealed: the council exists to serve the interest of the government and the members will sacrifice anything to serve this end. This is the true nature of the council, borne by the government and displaying so soon upon its maturation the distinguishing marks of its paternity.

      Though the vote taken by the council was merely on a recommendation, and not a resolution, the details of the vote are enough to astonish even the casual observer. The one who submitted the draft of the recommendation is the chief of the Egyptian bar association, the most distinguished figure in the defense of liberties and rights in Egypt, and a member of the liberal party that continues to call for the lifting of the emergency state. And yet, even with these credentials, he voted against the recommendation he himself prepared and submitted.

      Of the councils 25 members, amongst whom include professors and law professionals, 21 voted against the recommendation, agreeing to the continuation of the emergency law. This majority provides an honest and accurate picture of the government created council that has proved its faithfulness to its origins. The questions remain: What will we do? Will human rights in Egypt continue to be violated? Will the human rights situation continue to deteriorate, with violations reported daily in the reports of national and international human rights organization? These violations have became a matter of fact, an inextricable part of Egyptian life. Will the emergency state continue to constitute the structure of power which provides the authorities with the justification for their gross violations of human rights? Will the people of our nation continue to be stripped of their human rights in order to assure this totalitarian situation of its continued existence?

      The attempt to answer these questions will be in vain if they are not addressed at this very moment; the issue cannot be postponed or delayed. It is of the utmost urgency. This issue has to be the first item in the nation's agenda; it has to be the number one priority of those concerned and those whose rights are violated, as well as of those organizations, bodies, syndicates and parties who have to recognize the significance of this issue. It must be the first issue discussed by all powers in society.

       The first step that should be taken concerning the issue of the emergency state is to create a coalition of all interested and concerned bodies; at the heart of such a coalition should be the human rights organizations who shall bear the responsibility of drafting the agenda, the first, and most urgent, point of which will be the Emergency Law. It is imperative that this be accomplished before human rights organizations realize that silence implies consent and that their silence granted legitimacy to human rights violations in Egypt.

By: Ahmed Qenawy
Lawyer and legal researcher

[email protected]

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