18 human rights groups announced their support for the decision to restructure the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) and put forward a set of criteria for selecting new council members.
Interim president Adly Mansour ratified a bill drafted last week by the cabinet ordering the restructuring of the NCHR.
In a joint statement released on Monday, the groups called for amending law 94/2003 which governs the NCHR. Amendments proposed included ensuring the financial and functional independence of the council from governmental control.
The groups also stressed the importance of giving the NCHR a wider jurisdiction. They added that the council should extend beyond being an intermediary between citizens and governmental institutions, acting only as a complaint box and not offering any solutions to human rights problems.
They called for giving the NCHR the authority to revise legislations, laws and bylaws related to human rights and to submit recommendations in regards to how those legal texts can best comply to basic human rights principles.
The signatory groups put forward a set of criteria for appointing new NCHR members, adding the new appointments must comply with the 1993 Paris Principles which relate to the status and functioning of national human rights institutions.
They stated the new formation should be expressive of the entirety of society and should include representatives from non-governmental organisations, trade unions, social organisations and human rights activists, the latter with no less than 40% representation.
The groups stated that human rights organisations should be given the opportunity to nominate their members as representatives within the council. They added that the council’s deputy head and secretary general should both be elected by council members, adding that they, alongside the council head, should come from a humanitarian background.
The groups said council members should not have prior positions against human rights or general freedoms and should have a clean slate when it comes to crimes of inciting or committing violence.
The human rights groups stated that the current NCHR formation does not, by any means, represent the role of such national human rights organisations. They added that current members have exercised bias towards the Muslim Brotherhood, and that some of them taken stances against freedom.
The groups cited in their statement two council members, Safwat Hegazy and Hoda Abdel Moneim, whom they accused of inciting violence from the platforms of sit-ins held in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. They also cited council members for whom arrest warrants were issued for inciting violence, such as Brotherhood leading figure Mohamed Al-Beltagy.
In an earlier interview, NCHR deputy chairman Mohamed Al-Damaty, said he believed the membership of some current council members should be suspended, including Hegazy and Al-Beltagy.
“It’s not acceptable for someone who is accused of inciting violence to remain a member of the council.” He was, nevertheless, against the complete restructuring of the council, saying that those who are not fit to be members should be replaced while the formation generally remains intact.
The statement’s signatories included the Arab Penal Reform Organisation, the Arab Foundation for the Support of Civil Society and Human Tights and the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists.
The NCHR was formed by the Shura Council in September 2012, stirring controversy upon its formation.