For Immediate Release: January 29, 2013
New York City – Human Rights First is deeply concerned by the escalating political crisis in Egypt marked by continuing violent protests and an increasing number of casualties. The organization notes that Egypt is suffering from an erosion of popular trust in state institutions, including the police, the security forces and the judiciary.
“Egypt is entrenched in political polarization rooted in a failure of political forces to reach a minimal consensus that would permit a culture of peaceful political contestation to develop,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks.
Following a narrow victory in presidential elections in June 2012, where he was the first choice of only about a quarter of the electorate, President Morsi has consolidated his own power, and that of the Muslim Brotherhood while failing to build broad support for steps taken by his government. Most damagingly, the constitution drafting process was forced through without the participation of independent and opposition members of the drafting commission, who had withdrawn from the process in protest. Eventually, the constitution passed in a December 2012 referendum in which only about a third of the electorate participated.
“The constitution that emerged last year fails to guarantee basic rights and freedoms to which Egypt is committed by international treaty,” Hicks observed. “It creates ambiguity about where the ultimate authority to interpret laws and constitutional provisions will reside. This lack of political legitimacy and failure to ground Egypt’s transition within a firm framework of respect for universal human rights principles and the rule of law is at the root of the current political crisis.”
Human Rights First calls on President Morsi to:
- Immediately form a government of national unity to replace the existing cabinet including representatives of all political factions. The composition of this should be loosely based on the first round of the presidential elections, the most inclusive vote that has yet taken place.
- Lift the State of Emergency on Suez Canal provinces.
- Annul the death sentences in the Port Said case and commit to carry out an independent inquiry into the soccer stadium disaster.
- Establish a review of the new constitution by an independent group of judges and constitutional experts, including civil society representatives, nominated by the national unity cabinet.
- Bring the constitution into compliance with all of Egypt’s obligations in international law, including providing guarantees for women’s rights, the rights of religious minorities and basic freedoms of expression and association.
- Ask the same independent commission to review the new election law recently adopted by the Shura Council.
- Keep the national unity government in place until a revised constitution that safeguards basic rights and freedoms, ensures separation of powers and upholds the rule of law is in place and until parliamentary elections are held.
- Monitor elections by qualified national and international institutions in accordance with international best practices.
- Create an independent commission, including judges, civil society representatives and public figures to investigate all acts of political violence committed by the security forces and non-state actors under the Morsi presidency and to make recommendations to restore public order, including recommendations for the reform of the police and state security forces.
“Egypt’s military should announce its support for the formation of an inclusive, representative government of national unity,” concluded Hicks. “All sides in Egypt’s political conflict should refrain from violence and participate in a broad based national effort to advance Egypt’s peaceful transition to democracy.”