NCHR to manage the process of observing the referendum

Fady Salah
5 Min Read
The constitutional referendum will be held on two stages, the final stage will take place next Saturday.. (DNE/ FILE PHOTO/ Hassan Ibrahim)
In March 2011 the constitutional amendment was approved by a large majority of votes cast in a national referendum. (DNE/ FILE PHOTO/ Hassan Ibrahim)
During the 15 December constitutional referendum voters must vote in the towns where they are registered. (DNE/ FILE PHOTO/ Hassan Ibrahim)

In preparation for the referendum due to be held on Saturday, the National Council for Human Rights announced Wednesday it was tasked by the Supreme Electoral Committee (SEC) to manage the process of observing the referendum.

“The SEC has passed this responsibility over to us since it’s extremely busy preparing for the referendum,” Abdel Moneim Abdel Maqsood, NCHR member and Muslim Brotherhood leading figure, said in a press conference held Wednesday. “That doesn’t mean that only observers affiliated with the Council get to observe the referendum.

Abdel Maqsood stated that time is what pushed the SEC to take such a decision. He promised that during the next parliamentary elections due to take place shortly after the referendum, should the constitution be passed, would witness a much bigger role for human rights organisations.

An Elections Support Committee has been established within the NCHR to oversee the referendum, Mohamed Al-Damaty, NCHR member said during the press conference. The committee includes Al-Damaty, Abdel Maqsood and Hoda Abdel Moneim.

 “The committee hereby vows to observe the elections with integrity and neutrality,” Al-Damaty said, adding that they shall stand at an equal distance between those who shall vote for or against the referendum.

The NCHR refused to acknowledge any organisations which already received permission from the SEC to supervise any previous elections. “Any organisations intent on observing the referendum shall approach us right away for permission,” Al-Damaty said.

“The council has notified all organisations which had observed previous elections with this decision to give them enough time to sign up for new permissions,” Abdel Maqsood said. “I expect that we shall give out around 15,000 observation permissions. We have given out seven permissions already.”

Abdel Maqsood added that holding the referendum on two stages has given the NCHR more room in terms of providing permissions.

Having to submit new permissions could complicate the observers’ mission.

“This is such short notice,” Mustafa Hegazy, official spokesperson of Shayfeenkom elections watchdog, said. “How can you ask me to find the time to collect copies and IDs in a period of two days? It is nonsense.”

Hegazy stated that at least a ten-day notice was needed for the observers to be ready. As far as Hegazy knows, Shayfeenkom has received no notification from the NCHR as regards getting permission to observe the referendum, though it had observed the 2012 presidential elections.

The NCHR has witnessed the departure of eight of its members during the past two weeks. Those who departed, none of them from an Islamist background, criticised the way in which the council dealt with President Mohamed Morsy’s latest decisions.

During the press conference, a reporter suggested that the NCHR cannot provide neutral observation due its Islamist-led nature. However, Al-Damaty stated that the council doesn’t only comprise of Islamists.

“I neither belong to the Muslim Brotherhood nor to the Freedom and Justice Party,” Al-Damaty said. “As a matter of fact, I spent 20 years in the leftist Al-Taggamu party.” Al-Damaty added that negotiations are underway with the resigning members in an attempt to bring them back into the council.

Seif Al-Islam Hammad, human rights lawyer who resigned from the council over a week ago, confirmed the negotiations. However, he stated that his decision to leave the council was final.

The Shura Council appointed new staff for the NCHR in September. At least seven of the 20 members appointed are from an Islamist background. Since its establishment in 2003, the NCHR has often been viewed as being closely affiliated with the regime, a matter which has cost it much of its credibility among other human rights organisations.

Share This Article
Leave a comment