Transition to Democracy in Egypt a Prospect for Human Rights

Subcommittee on Human Rights discussed on 28 February the transition to democracy in Egypt and the state of human rights during the time of tremendous change in the country, with Dr Ayman Nour, chairman of the El Ghad party and Moataz El Fegiery, a member of the Board of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies. [:]As Chairwoman Hautala opened the meeting she expressed concern over reports of heavy-handed clampdowns on demonstrations in Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen and denounced attacks by governmental security forces against the protesters in particular. Despite these countries’ international human rights commitments, they have unlawfully used lethal force against mostly peaceful protesters, which has resulted in hundreds of deaths, she said.

With particular concern, she raised the situation in Libya as most alarming. Ms Hautala had asked already on 22 February President Buzek to intervene with High Representative Ashton with a proposal that the EU take a position in the UN Security Council asking for the introduction of a no-fly-zone in Libya, to be enforced by Member States and US military in the Mediterranean, in order to prevent further grave atrocities.

In the hearing, the length of transition was discussed with profound interest. Egypt needs more than a six-month transition period, imposed by the provisional government, to arrange to hold elections, said civil society representatives. Estimates of the time needed range around year and a year and half.

A fixed six-month transition period not enough to have fair and competitive parliamentary and presidential elections. Civil society and political actors are of the opinion that a one-year transition period will be needed to fulfil the task of transition in an open and participatory manner”, said human rights activist Moataz El Fegiery, a member of the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and of the Board of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

“Despite all the positive steps which have been taken so far by the Military Council, the political atmosphere is still shaped by lack of confidence and suspicion”, he added.

El Ghad party chairman Dr Ayman Nour, speaking via video conference from Cairo, called for a transition period of one and half years, saying that “we want to make sure that this transition gives rise to proper foundations, if we want to create political parties because they have been marginalized and ostracized in the past in our system.” Egypt will not seek to renegotiate its peace agreement with Israel, he replied in answering questions whether Egypt will continue to comply with its international agreements.