As a Commissioner of Human Rights in the NCHR in Egypt, which was established in accordance with the Paris Principles, and accredited by the UN as a national institution in recognition of its independence, impartiality and objectivity,
I remind of our Council’s report on “Enforced Disappearance”, in Egypt, our documentation of some cases of “Illegal Detention” and our proposals on “Preventing Torture”, in addition to our repeated investigative and challenge “Prison inspections”. In this regard we have presented proposals to change legislation to conform with the Constitution and international treaty obligations.
All our reports are sent to the Government and Parliament. They are studiously followed up with the Ministry of Interior, and the office of the Prosecutor, Attorney General. Each month our “Ombudsman’s” office prepares indices of the number of complaints sent, the ones responded to, as well as the ones pending and still followed. Our Council also played a significant legislative role in adopting a new law on NGO’s in Egypt. We contributed to revoking law 70 of 2017, changing it to a better law that allows the formation of any NGO by “Simple Notification”. 
This is accountability.
A few days ago, our Council issued a report on Sinai after dispatching a “Fact Finding Mission”. This full report will be on our website. I consider the report as a classic example of how change should come from within and not supra imposed from the outside, exactly as the Paris principles requested. Our fact-finding mission to Sinai met the Governor, and all authorities in the Northern Sinai, toured freely, exhausted a UN based questionnaire, and gathered a wealth of information. We were not prevented from listening to, and writing down, the complaints from the people of Sinai especially on state tardiness in issuing proper compensations on properties lost, and demolished olive plantations. We also documented their requests for compensations to families of victims to terrorist attacks in Sinai including monthly stipends. With the same token we witnessed Government’s efforts for the comprehensive development of Sinai. The brave people of Sinai are fighting a war against terrorism. In one incident they have lost over 320 worshippers in the brutal killing of Alrawda Mosque, and instead of receiving messages of support from the outside deploring these heinous terrorists act, they received from some external forces, defiant messages describing those incidents as an “insurgency”. These are the same forces who supply you and others with information.
I raise two observations:
a-The UN adopted two covenants one on Political and civil rights in 1976, and the other an International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights the same year. Please include in your assessment what has been achieved in the latter in Egypt. Long-standing violation are now being remedied and huge economic and social projects are tailored to addressing the impoverished and achieving social justice in Egypt.
b-The other deals with the source and nature of HR related information some receive before defining the problem and making a sound judgement. Theoretically this information is politically tainted, shrouded with ulterior motivations, circumstantial, inflammatory and derogatory. It does not represent the free will of the 105 million Egyptians nor of the civil society in Egypt. Yes, we have mistakes, but we are working on redressing them.
So, I call here and now to make HR a matter of cooperation and not contestation between us.
Come and visit our Council, read our reports and resume the US project of dissemination of HR in Egypt in full cooperation with our Council. This US Project stopped by the US during Mubarak time, was not only successful, but it also gave the US, the opportunity to say whether its HR objectives have been fulfilled or not, and what we need to do next in the framework of fundamental HR objectives in Egypt.
This is a classic example of how to work with us, shepherd mutual cooperation plans, twining capacity building projects, and training our HR staff for more TOT’s.
The future of our region depends on the enforcement of fundamental Human Rights and a sound democratic edifice that should defy the test of time. But the best course should rely on our own innate transformation, as well as the gradual establishment of the necessary tools. Take for example the UPR process in the Human Rights Council in Geneva through which Egypt accepted more than 97% of its recommendations. History informs us that it took Europe many years, and many bloody wars to instill the democracy we see today? The case of the US is not different. How many years has it taken the US to entrench the tenets of its democracy, and devise a proper legal framework to overcome social injustices, inequalities and deep rooted societal and institutional discrimination? A century to instill equality and rights of African Americans, minorities and more for rights of women, to vote and be part of sound political progressions.
Just as a reminder, the international edifice of democracy is not a simple western style election process, or a one model fits all democracy. It is much deeper than that. It includes, inter alia, pluralism, institutional building, and alternation of power, rule of law, integrity of elections, political participation, accountability, and citizen empowerment.
This is a process that needs the full realization of all elements of democracy including the right for development, education, health, employment, housing…etc., in a stable and transparent milieu. Towards that lofty objective there will be ups and downs. Serious work must be done to reform legislations and bring national plans in tandem with UN treaties and OHCHR standards and sustainable development goals. We must confess that in the Middle East the road is bumpy, and the experience is young. Against a back yard of disappointment and little achievements things must be placed in a proper time frame or a time/space continuum. The time allotted for a full-fledged democratic transition in Egypt is still very short lived while achievements are not little. Although expectations are high it should be understood that the time for changes, real changes, started only since 2014. To illustrate one of the first changes in March, only a few weeks following the 2011 revolution, was to vote on a constitutional amendment that would remove from the old constitution all provisions of inheritance and an eternal presidency. These amendments were widely approved in a referendum. Two achievements followed in what came to be acknowledged as a road map: a new constitution in 2014 and the election of a new President. This should be recognized.
Today in Egypt there shall be no regression or relapse. No return to the past. People have revolted twice in 2011 and 2013 and hold their leaders accountable. The wall of fear is broken. Democracy, Human Rights, Political and civic rights, and good governance are very high in public sentiments and remain forceful on civic agendas with an important role for the civil society.
Hence, it is important to reassess and re-evaluate the true dimension of public sentiments in Egypt. The millions who took to the streets on June 30, 2013, and the sweeping public emotions of those who suffer daily from terrorists’ attacks, casualties and more so from bombs in schools, metro stations, places of worship, and electricity power stations. Public sentiments are high, resolute and firm rejecting to deal with those who kill, maim, or conspire.
Some Advantages of law 149 of 2019, regulating the practice of civil society work in Egypt
Any NGO has the right to be established with a “Simple Notification”. The new title of Law 149 is considered a significant departure from the previous “Law of Organization of Associations and Work of Civil Institutions”. Changing the title is a recognition from the legislative and executive authorities for rights of NGO’s. The new law stipulates the participation and rights of non-Egyptians in NGO’s and their board of directors, as it stipulates that non-Egyptians who have permanent or temporary residency in Egypt may participate in the membership of the association or its board of directors, not exceeding 25 per cent. Any NGO may establish or contribute to establishing charitable companies and investment funds linked to its activities in a way that achieves safe investment for its practice as well as the right to invest the returns to realize financial sustainability of the NGO’s activities. This is a very important development. The new NGO law Allows organizations to benefit from their assets and accounts.
The text of the new law for the first time approves “volunteer work”. Where the law stipulated that among the documents papers to declare the association, the existence of a document that includes the rules and conditions for volunteer work in the activities of the association and the volunteers’ rights, duties and means of their protection. The law abolishes custodial penalties and replaces them with financial fines for administrative offenses, unless the act constitutes a crime. Granting NGO’s, the right to receive cash money from inside Egypt from Egyptian natural or legal persons or foreign non-governmental organizations authorized to work inside Egypt and allowing everyone who invites the public to collect cash and in-kind donations other than civil society institutions to dispose of these donations after obtaining permission to do so from the administrative authority.