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Saturday, April 27, 2013

Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 case study - Egypt


Reuters/Reuters - An Egyptian Salafi Muslim man holds a poster of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi which reads "Renaissance" during a protest in front of Abdeen Presidential Palace in downtown Cairo March 1, 2013. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh.

26 Apr 2013 03:04 Africa/Lagos

Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 case study - Egypt


LONDON, 24 April 2013 / PRNewswire Africa / - The FCO's Human Rights and Democracy Report 2012 covers a number of changes in the human rights situation in Egypt.  

Egypt - post-revolution

In 2011, we concluded that our key concerns were freedom of expression; freedom of association; mistreatment of religious minorities, protesters, journalists and human rights defenders; increased use of military trials for civilians; and allegations of inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of the security services. Over the course of 2012, there have been a number of improvements in the human rights situation in Egypt. Most significantly, handover of power from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to a democratically elected president took place in June and there is now greater space for public debate. Parliamentary elections are scheduled to begin on 27 April 2013.

However, issues of concern remain. Foremost of these are women's rights, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Women, who played a key role in the revolution, have seen little improvement in their rights. We remain concerned about reports of increasingly violent sexual assault and treatment of women, and we have raised this with the Egyptian government. The transition period has also seen continued sectarian violence.

The Prime Minister raised the protection of religious minorities during his meeting with President Mursi on 26 September. Through project funds, we have supported a project to create a partnership between mainstream Muslim and Christian groups to train mixed teams in conflict resolution and mediation skills. The new constitution agreed by referendum in December lacks clarity on certain human rights elements. While it gives Muslims, Christians and Jews the right to practise their religion, it does not give the same freedom to other religions and minority sects. More positively, there is now greater space for public debate in Egyptian society since the fall of Mubarak.
 
We note that during the protests over the draft constitution at the end of 2012, the police initially acted with more restraint than previously and the army made clear that they would not intervene. But we are concerned about limits on freedom of expression in Egypt, including the increase in prosecutions of bloggers and activists, closing of satellite television stations, and lack of clarity on the definition of blasphemy, which is illegal under the new constitution.
 
 We are also concerned about ongoing harassment and intimidation of trade union officials as well as the article in the new constitution which prohibits more than one trade union per profession. Trade unions have an important role to play in developing a healthy democracy. Through the joint-funded FCO–DFID Arab Partnership Fund, we are supporting a project to assist Egypt's trade unions to develop and promote economic and social policy recommendations.

 Elections

Elections are crucial to the democratic process and to delivering long-term, stable democratic outcomes. Support for good electoral process and practice is therefore central to the FCO's policy on democracy. We provide this largely by giving financial, technical and personnel support to election observation missions and democratic institutions to promote the peaceful transition of power and minimise opportunities for fraud. In this we work closely with DFID, led by a joint policy on election assistance.

In 2011–12 DFID provided support to four countries to help them hold freer and fairer elections (Tanzania, Nigeria, Zambia and Yemen). Much of our election observation support is done through international organisations, in particular the EU, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Commonwealth. These organisations' election observation missions consider the strengths and weaknesses of an electoral process and make independent recommendations for improvements.

In 2012, the EU observed elections in Senegal, Algeria, Sierra Leone, Libya and Timor-Leste, helping to achieve largely peaceful and successful elections in each case. The FCO supported UK observers for OSCE election observation missions in Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Serbia, Montenegro, Ukraine and the USA. As part of discussions to modernise the Commonwealth which took place throughout 2012, Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed that election observation was an area where the Commonwealth adds significant value and concluded that this work should be strengthened.
 
 In 2012, the Commonwealth observed elections in Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Lesotho and Ghana. The UK, through the FCO and DFID, provided approximately £7 million in support of the Ghanaian elections. This included a training programme for 16,000 police and other service personnel on electoral procedures to ensure, for example, impartial conduct at polling stations. The elections were peaceful and deemed by the observers to be free, fair and transparent. Domestic election observers also play an important role in monitoring the conduct of elections. For instance, in Libya, the Arab Partnership Fund supported training of nearly 900 local election observers, including women and former revolutionary fighters, for Libya's July 2012 elections, the first to be held after the fall of Muammar Qadhafi and the first in the country in 47 years.

The UK also helped set up an Observer Control Centre to provide observer groups with a central office in which comments and observations could be coordinated. The observers were able to report on an election which, despite some security incidents, they determined was fair overall, and in which the majority of Libyans were able to vote without intimidation. A key pillar of the FCO's and DFID's joint policy on election support involves offering long-term engagement between elections, as well as during them, with those whose effective participation is essential for a peaceful democratic result, including parliamentarians, electoral bodies, the judiciary, political parties, the media and civil society.

Our response to the elections in Egypt, where the UK is committed to supporting the process of political transition, was an example of this approach being put into practice. Egypt went to the polls on three separate occasions in 2012: a parliamentary election in January, a presidential election in May and a referendum on the new constitution in December. Through the FCO Arab Partnership Fund, we provided early financial and public support to the Carter Center monitoring mission, one of the few international organizations allowed to observe the elections in May.

We were also the only donor to fund the observation of the December referendum by the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, the single independent observer. Embassy staff observed at polling stations when permitted by the authorities. All three elections passed peacefully and without significant allegations of irregularity. We are now working to support media training in Egypt to facilitate impartial electoral coverage and to provide peer support to nascent political parties and parliamentarians, in particular female candidates. We will continue to promote a free and open political system in Egypt by providing support for a credible and impartial assessment of the presidential elections and constitutional referendum. In 2013, the UK will continue to support electoral processes both bilaterally and through our work with international organisations.

SOURCE : UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office



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