The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights' Eighth Intellectual Forum Strategies of activating the Egyptian civil society - The final statement and recommendations

Shepard Hotel 26-27 July 2002

The final statement and recommendations

EOHR held its eighth intellectual forum titled "Strategies of activating the civil society in Egypt" on 26-27th July 2002 in Shepard. This forum was held with the cooperation of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and with the participation of more than 500 concerned people including representatives of the International and Arab organizations as well as the leaders of the Civil Society Institutions in Egypt and the Human Rights NGOs in Egypt. In addition to a number of writers, journalists and leaders of the Civil work in Egypt.

In the first day of the forum, the issue of activating the Egyptian Civil Society was approached, then the issue of the NGOs law no.84 of 2002 was approached deeply through presenting specialized papers which tackled the crisis of the relation of the new law with the democratic atmosphere in Egypt and the unconstitutionality of this law. Furthermore, a separate session was held to compare the Egyptian NGOs law with the other Arab NGOs laws such as Palestine, Morocco, Jordan and Bahrain. Also, the NGOs law has been compared with the principle of the right to form associations stated in the International and Regional instruments on Human Rights.

In the second day, the crisis of the civil society institutions was approached as the first session was for discussion of the crisis of the trade unions and professional syndicates, the second session was for the political parties, the third session was for the issue of the NGOs and the last session was for the strategies of activating the civil society institutions in Egypt.

After the presentation of the papers by the experts and researchers who participated in the forum and after holding a dialogue, numbers of recommendations were concluded such as:

Concerning the NGOs law:

1-Concerning the new NGOs law, the participants affirmed that this law is against all the ambitions and hopes to free the civil society as well as this law is a negative step towards decreasing the democratic atmosphere as well as it is a negative step in comparison with the NGOs laws in Morocco , Lebanon and Yemen.

Moreover, the participants affirmed that the government shall not intervene in the freedom of affiliating and forming an association.

In addition to, the government shall not intervene in the registration, the establishment and the activities of the association. Also, the intervene of the government in the freedom of association shall be carried out under the judicial supervision. Moreover, the participants stressed on the necessity of implementing the principles which is mentioned in International Covenant on Human Rights as well as the Egyptian Constitution such as:

2- Everyone has the right to participate in establishing, managing, affiliating to and withdrawing from associations. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society.

3- Implementing the basic legal principle on which the freedom of associations is based, which is the right to be established without obtaining permission or a license because the association is established when its founders wishes to do so and they can just give a notification after its establishment. The procedures of the establishment shall not hinder or restrict the form of the association and these procedures shall be clear, simple , free and quick as well as they shall not be under the control of the evaluation of the management authority.

4- The association shall be managed by its board according to its internal regulations. The State's administration does not have the right to intervene in the associations' meetings or elections or activities.

5- The association has the right to develop its financial resources including the donations of its members, the grants, aids. The association can also carry out activities, which achieve profits, that are used to increase its resources and this activity shall be transparent and accountable.

6- The principle of the equality between the breaches and the punishment shall be implemented. The criminal punishment sentences shall not be issued against the association or its members. In all cases the judiciary is the only body which can issue punishment sentences along with the guarantee of a fair and impartial trial.

7- The principle that the State's administration does not has the right to dissolve the association. The association shall not be dissolved except by a decree from its body or by a final judicial decree in the case that the association benefited from the right to defense in impartial , public and fair trial as well as in specific cases defined by the law.

Concerning the activating the roles of the NGOs, the recommendations are as follows:

Lifting up the restrictions imposed by the state on the work of the NGOs.

Abolishing law no. 84 of 2002, which is a negative step towards restricting the work of the civil society in Egypt.

The NGOs shall perform their role in teaching democracy and spreading the political culture.

The association shall implement the principle of democracy in its internal administration as well as the principle of the exchange of powers between the leaders of the association. Also, the associations shall encourage the principle of the volunteering work which shall be the basic character of the Egyptian civil work.

Concerning the Professional Syndicates and Trade Unions, the recommendations are as follows:

1- Calling the state for taking the necessary procedures and legislations to stop imposing control over the trade unions so as to enable them to perform their role in representing the labors before the employer.

2- Calling the state to abolish the centralized trade union system and replaced it with multi trade unions system that is related to the totalitarian regime, which is in conflict with article 8 of the International Covenant on Social and Economic Rights which affirmed the right to form unions and syndicates.

3- The participants mentioned that a lot of labors do not know that they have trade unions, so the trade unions have the role to access to labors and to defend their interests everywhere.

4- The necessity of eliminating the pyramid shape when organizing the trade union's structure which leads to impose control on the trade unions. The pyramid shape means that organizing the union is based on three levels like the pyramid which are: the basic level ( The syndicate committee ) , the meditate level ( The public syndicate) then the top level ( The General United Trade Union in Egypt)

5- Abolishing law no.100 of 93 concerning the professional syndicate , and to return to the normal status as well as there shall not be legislative intervene in the professional Syndicates' affairs except after the consultation of its elected councils and its General Assembly.

6- The state shall coordinate with the professional syndicates in the partial policies related to the various professions because the professional syndicates are considered bodies which shall represent their members and defend their interests.

Concerning the political parties, the recommendations are as follows:

1- Canceling the emergency law , releasing the political detainees and forgiving the political prisoners who were not involved in the violence cases.

2- Providing the guarantees for fair and democratic elections and so all the coming elections shall be held without any administrative intervene and under complete and fair political competition.

3- The freedom of forming political party under the supervision of the normal judiciary and to lift up the restriction on the peaceful activities of people.

4- Amending law no.40 of 1977 concerning the political parties. This amendment shall include the abolishing of the committee's parties affairs and the parties' court and to return to the normal mandate of the state council.

5- The freedom of issuing newspapers and the ownership of the media means as well as to give the parties and the political forces the opportunities to express their viewpoints and thoughts in all the media means owned by people.

6- The parties shall carry out some tasks such as deepen the parties' democracy and that all the parties' structure shall represented through elections as well as to adopt the principle of the exchange of powers among the leaders. Also, to expand the membership of the parties and to expand the power of the party in the popular organizations and public opinion. Eventually, to give the priority to the parties' culture and the preparation of new leaders.

Concerning the activation of human rights movement, the recommendations are as follows:

1- Establishing a coordinating committee in order to coordinate between the movement's party in order to reach common opinions in various issues.

2- Forming a moral charter for the human rights movement in Egypt which shall be ratified by all human rights associations and centers.

3- The movement shall develop its strategies in order to defend democracy because it is the basic guarantee for the protection of human rights.

4- The necessity of spreading human rights among the deferent members of the society.

At the end of the forum, the participants affirmed the necessity of establishing a committee in order to call for political and democratic reform with the participation of all the active political forces in society from the political parties, professional syndicates and trade unions as well as all NGOs sectors in Egypt. The basic task of this committee shall be to abolish the exceptional laws headed by the emergency laws as well as to carry out legislative amendment targets at abolishing the laws which restrict the public freedoms such as the laws which organize the work of the political parties and the professional syndicates and the NGOs. Also, to amend the penal code this means to abolish the articles, which criminate the freedom of expression, opinion and the freedom of thoughts and beliefs.

The committee shall prepare a comprehensive national dialogue with the participation of all the political and social forces in order to put a general framework and basic principles in order to practice democracy. These framework and principle shall affirm the principle of forgiveness values and the acceptance of others and the respect of the mechanism of the democratic work which include the refusal of violence and the fairness of elections.