CAIRO: Mohamed ElBaradei, chair of the National Coalition for Change, met with 10 human rights organizations on Tuesday to discuss “the human rights situation in Egypt and its main priorities , the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) said in a statement.
CIHRS General Director Bahey Eddin Hassan told Daily News Egypt that the two and a half hour meeting took place as security forces violently broke up a peaceful demonstration in Cairo. “Government repression was inevitably the departure point of discussions, Hassan said.
The former IAEA chief, who is spearheading a movement for political reform ahead of the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections, discussed a range of “pressing issues with the NGOs including the anticipated extension of the state of emergency, the draft law on civil society associations which has been widely condemned as restricting NGO activity, the situation of Egypt’s Copts, and workers’ rights including the recent court decision obliging the government to set a minimum wage, according to Hassan.
State-run daily Al-Ahram published on Thursday an attack on ElBaradei by Abdel-Meneim El-A’zaly, deputy head of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation, who criticized ElBaradei’s demand that the 50 percent quota of seats given to workers and farmers in the People’s Assembly under the Constitution be abolished.
Hassan supported ElBaradei’s demand, describing this Constitution article as a political device. “NGOs don’t believe that this article protects workers. However, our main concern is not this or that article of the Constitution, but that he should develop a rights-based rather than charity discourse when it comes to the disadvantaged in Egypt, Hassan said.
“Injustice in Egypt is everywhere. ElBaradei should adopt the right approach. He needs to develop a human rights agenda – not just respond to events but rather put in place a long-term agenda.
Hassan says that ElBaradei and the NGOs have planned another meeting, and that, “future cooperation depends on how such dialogue between ElBaradei and the NGOs is concluded. We still need more discussions .
CIHRS also says in its statement issued Wednesday that the Forum of Independent Human Rights Organizations will meet Minister of Legal Affairs Mufid Shehab on April 15, 2010 to follow-up on the “latest developments concerning the government’s stance on the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) recommendations .
In February Egypt agreed to a list of 119 recommendations at the United Nations Human Rights Council made by other Council member states. Egypt deferred a decision concerning other recommendations until the adoption of the final UPR report in June.
Hassan said that security forces’ response to the April 6 demonstration, as well as the anticipated extension of the state of emergency in May demonstrates that, “the government is working in the opposite direction of the UPR recommendations .
Hassan recently met US Ambassador to Egypt Margaret Scobey, who Ministry of Social Solidarity officials last month claimed had approved repressive articles of the draft law on civil society currently before parliament.
“Scobey denied approving repressive articles in the draft NGO law, saying that she has not seen a draft and that she would not agree to any law that constrains NGO activity if consulted on it, Hassan told Daily News Egypt.