CAIRO: None of Egypt’s human rights NGOs were invited to People’s Assembly sessions conducted in the past two months to discuss the constitutional amendments, said Hossam Bahgat, director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Bahgat told The Daily Star Egypt that the committee of legalization and constitutional affairs in parliament held five sessions to discuss the proposed constitutional amendments.
Attendance was by invitation only, Bahgat added.
The first three sessions were exclusive to law professors, the other two were restricted to parliament members, Bahgat said.
The Shura Council held some sessions where they invited members of professional syndicates and the government-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), but as far as I know – not a single human rights NGO was invited, Bahgat said.
He said that the Cairo Center for Human Rights had made an official request to attend the meetings, but was rejected, said Bahgat.
Gamal Taha, media consultant at the NCHR, said that five of the 25 members of the council attended the sessions.
The five members are also parliamentarians, Taha stated, indicating that it is against PA rules to invite civil society representatives who are not MPs.
However, Mohamed El Dakroury, member of the PA’s legislative committee told The Daily Star Egypt that law experts and thinkers were invited and that “anyone who had expressed a desire to attend was welcome.
MP for the ruling National Democratic Party Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah concurred. He told The Daily Star Egypt that the debate sessions were open to all members of civil society and were not restricted to parliamentarians.
The sessions were attended by intellectuals, decision-makers and university professors whose opinions were highly appreciated, Kwaitah said.
To prove his point, he named some of the attendees to The Daily Star Egypt: Yehia El Gamal, constitutional law professor at Cairo University, Mohmaed Abu Al Saud, from Ain Shams University, Mostaf Affify, from Tanta University, Abdel Maksoud Salem, from Zakazik University, Mohamed Kamal Gabrail, from Helwan University, Refaat El Saeid head of El Tagammu party and Heba Nassar, director of the Egyptian Research Center.
In a previous interview Kwaitah told The Daily Star Egypt that he rejected outright any criticism of how the amendments were debated, emphasizing that 17 related sessions were held in the past few months.
Seven of these, he claimed, were conducted at the PA chambers while the rest were held under the auspices of civil society groups.
Again Bahgat disagreed, stressing that only five sessions were held in the past few months and their dates were published on the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ official website www.eipr.org.