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March 03, 2011

New Egyptian Prime Minister has Opportunity to Implement Real Change

Washington, DC – Egypt’s governing military council, the SCAF, has named former transportation minister Essam Sharaf as the nation’s new Prime Minister. Sharaf now faces the challenge of forming a new government in Egypt and implementing the democratic reforms sought by protesters. Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks notes: “It is becoming urgent that the transitional authorities in Egypt demonstrate that they are moving forward in responding to demands for more democracy, more political freedom and a government that responds to the needs of the people.” Last week, Human Rights First outlined a series of steps to support Egypt’s leaders in achieving a more democratic Egypt and a government more capable of responding to the needs of the Egyptian people.  The United States should press for these reforms, which include:
  1. Military willingness to share executive power, even in this transitional period, by bringing credible civilian figures who are not tainted by association with the previous regime into an interim executive council. This would indicate the military council’s readiness to submit to civilian rule under a new elected government and revised constitution.
  2. Government repeal of repressive legislation including the Emergency Law, laws restricting political parties, and laws that undermine the independence of professional associations and non-governmental organizations.
  3. The release of all political prisoners.  Reports indicate that not all political prisoners have been released.
  4. An end to arbitrary detention and torture.  This was a widespread practice under Mubarak and there are reports that the problem is ongoing, though on a much smaller scale.
  5. Meaningful progress on Constitutional reform.  A review of key parts of the Constitution that must be changed to enable free elections to take place is under way.  This process must result in real change soon.
  6. Establish an immediate transitional and independent authority to regulate Egypt’s telco and ISP sector. This would create a more stable business climate, ensure the free flow of information and privacy of communications, as well as avert the temptation to use SMS and other services to hack into or malign political opposition.

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