CAIRO: The Egyptian government has been responsible for “speeding up the reform and development process.and disseminating a human rights culture in society a government report presented to the United Nations says.
The report was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) as part of the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, whereby the human rights records of UN member states are examined every four years on the basis of submissions from the state itself and information received from independent human rights experts and NGOs.
“The advancement of human rights . is a continuous, evolving and cumulative process, the Egyptian government says in its introduction to the 24-page report, made available online last week.
Egypt’s record will be reviewed on Feb. 17, 2010.
The government says that “laws have been amended over the past 10 years to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, to promote political participation, to encourage freedom of opinion and expression and to increase rights for women and children.
The government account of the human rights situation in Egypt differs in several respects from NGO and independent reports submitted to the UN.
The most significant disparity is in its presentation of the state of emergency in force since 1981.
While rights groups challenge that the continuing imposition of the emergency law is unnecessary and has played a “fundamental role in the erosion of the rule of law, the government report maintains that the state of emergency is necessary to respond to the “many incidents of terrorism Egypt has faced and “attempts to stir up sectarian strife.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism was dismissive, in a report detailing his April fact-finding mission to Egypt, of government claims that a terrorist threat justifies the continued imposition of the state of emergency, stating that since the end of the 1990s “terrorist attacks have been isolated and sporadic.
While the government states in the report that the administrative detention permitted under the emergency law only targets individuals “who manifestly constitute a threat to public security and is “a temporary and exceptional measure , rights groups continually allege that the system is abused in order to lock up political opponents, sometimes for years.
The government also defends its decision to retain capital punishment, saying that it is only applied “in the most serious cases and is used “as a deterrent.
Rights groups point out, however, that exceptional courts such as military tribunals that lack basic guarantees of a fair trial can hand down death penalties.
Addressing torture, the government report states that human rights concepts are being taught to “officers and ordinary members of the police and that the public prosecution office investigates “every complaint it receives of torture or cruel treatment . In 2009 it referred nine such cases.
The report justifies the widely-criticized fact that under Egyptian law a crime of torture is only committed when the violence is inflicted in order to extract a confession by pointing to the fact that torturers may be tried under other offence headings which may carry a heavier punishment.
Freedom of expression has flourished in recent years, the report says.
“The past few years have seen an unprecedented increase in the number of citizens exercising their right to freedom of expression, using the latest tools that the various media have to offer.
“The State’s delivery of internet services . has led to a substantial increase in the number of Egyptian bloggers, who can express their views on various issues freely.
The report does not mention the fact that Kareem Amer, the first blogger to be imprisoned for his online writing was denied release on parole in November.
The government has not kept its pledge, made by President Hosni Mubarak in 2005, to abolish prison sentences in publishing crimes committed by journalists. The report says that a moratorium on the matter is needed.
“A fresh debate on the issue [of prison sentences for publishing crimes] should be conducted in order to arrive at a formula on the retention or abolition of prison sentences for these offences that will balance freedom of expression with protection of the public interest.
It also says that preparations are being made to amend the widely-criticized Civil Associations and Organizations Act “further to recent comments from a number of civil society organizations.