Egypt has been provided with 300 recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council, following its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva on Wednesday.
The list includes recommendations relating to the controversial Protest and NGO Laws, media freedoms, freedom of association, the use of the death penalty, and women’s rights.
This is Egypt’s second UN UPR, which occur every four years. Egypt received 165 recommendations following its first review in 2010.
This year, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was reviewed on the same day as Egypt, received 167 recommendations. Iran and Iraq’s reviews occurred at the end of October, with Iran receiving 290 recommendations, and Iraq receiving 229.
There were at least 20 recommendations that dealt with the status of civil society organisations in Egypt and called for a revision of the current law, to bring it in line with provisions set out in the constitution and “international norms”.
Seven Egyptian NGOs refused to participate in the UN UPR, citing a fear of reprisals by the Egyptian government.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity issued a 10 November deadline for civil society groups to register under the NGO Law of 2002. Groups that do not register in time could face closure or prosecution. Some organisations have in the past declared that the ministry either refused to accept or ignored their attempts to register.
The controversial Protest Law was referenced at least 13 times among the 300 recommendations, with calls to amend the law and “bring it in line with international standards”.
Hundreds have been arrested under the law issued by interim president Adly Mansour in November 2013. Prominent activists such as 6 April Youth Movement co-founder Ahmed Maher have received jail sentences for violating the law. Most recently Yara Sallam, a researcher for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, was sentenced to three years in prison along with 22 others for participating in a demonstration against the law earlier this year.
Among the recommendations in the 30 page report, Egypt was urged to ratify international conventions on the death penalty. During the review Egypt’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights and NGOs Mahy Abdel-Latif stressed there is “no international consensus on the death penalty”, adding it is restricted to the most serious crimes. She pointed out that “around 50 countries” still have death as a punishment within their criminal justice systems.
A recommendation by Iceland read “Ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into the mass killings in [Rabaa Al-Adaweya] Square in 2013 and hold the perpetrators accountable”. Iceland was the only country to explicitly refer to the dispersal of the pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in last summer, while other countries such as the United States and Belgium called for investigations into “excessive use of force by security forces”.
The US also recommended that Egypt “release those detained solely for exercising rights to freedom of expression or for membership in a political group, and ensure remaining detainees full fair trial guarantees on an individual level”.
The list also included recommendations to tackle corruption, human trafficking, the promotion of human rights, and investment in education for young people.
Bahy Eldin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS), met with UN human rights representatives in Geneva following the review to discuss “the appalling deterioration in the state of human rights in Egypt”.
CIHRS is one of the organisations that decided not to participate in the review.
He said the government’s “war on terror is simply a pretext for the systematic, daily repressive measures against young secular activists, non-terrorist Islamists, independent journalists and media figures, and human rights defenders,”. He added that this “explains the ongoing failure to defeat terrorism”.
Hassan expressed that he would like to see the government “reconsider its policies and orientation before Egypt slides into an abyss of unremitting terrorism and political violence”.
Egypt has until March 2015 to respond to the recommendations.