Thursday, November 30, 2006

Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Prepares for Court


Hossam Bahgat, a 26 year old Egyptian human rights activist and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights is urging supporters of human rights in Egypt to attend the Supreme Court's session scheduled for this Saturday, 2 December 2006, which is intended to rule on the Ministry of Interior's appeal of the lower administrative court's ruling which granted the Egyptian Baha'is their rights to be recognized on official documents and be able to obtain government-issued ID Cards.

He reports that during previous court's sessions, the courtroom was full of extremists who had intentionally created an environment of terror, anarchy and chaos during the court's sessions intimidating the judges, the attorneys and the journalists present. Consequently, the attorneys for the Baha'is were never free to argue their case before the panel of judges.

As in Bahgat's letter quoted in Arabic below he is strongly urging the attendance of the largest number possible of "Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination" and in particular those who are members of the judiciary committees.

Here is a press release by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR):


Right to Privacy Program

Press Advisory- 29 November 2006

Supreme Admin Court to Consider Interior Ministry's Appeal against Baha'is on Saturday

On Saturday, 2 December 2006, the First Circuit of the Supreme Administrative Court will consider the merits of the Interior Ministry's appeal against a lower court decision that found Egyptian Baha'is had the right to obtain birth certificates, identity cards and other official documents that recognized their faith.

The Supreme Court's Appeal Inspection Chamber started considering the seriousness and admissibility criteria of the appeal last May. On 15 May, the Chamber accepted the Interior Ministry's request to suspend the implementation of the lower court decision pending consideration of the appeal. The appeal was referred to the First Circuit on 20 November after receiving the mandatory advisory opinion of the State Commissioners Authority that recommended ruling in favor of the Interior Ministry.

In a 4 April 2006 ruling the Administrative Justice Court had found in favor of two Baha'i parents who wanted birth certificates for their three daughters after the Interior Ministry had confiscated them for discovering they recognized the daughters and their parents as followers of the Baha'i faith. The ruling was founded on the premise that Islamic Shari'a prohibited discrimination against non-Muslims; that recognizing the Baha'i faith in official records did not mean an official endorsement of its tenets; and that it was in the state's interest to recognize the true religious affiliation of citizens in order to identity the rights, duties and laws applicable to them.

It is worth noting that the current lawsuit does not deal with the legal recognition of the Baha'i community or the veracity of its faith. The question before the Supreme Administrative Court is whether or not Egyptian Baha'i citizens have the right to obtain official identification documents that listed their religious affiliation, left the 'religion' line blank or inserted the word 'others' instead of the three officially recognized religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These three options were available for Egypt's Baha'i citizens for decades before the Interior Ministry's Civil Status Department decided in the last four years to force them to follow one of the three recognized religions only.

The Court hearing should start at 10 a.m. and be open to the public and the media in Maglis El-Dawla in Dokki.


The following is Mr. Bahgat's letter to Misriyoun [Egyptians] Against Religious Discrimination (MARED):


السادة أعضاء مصريون ضد التمييز الديني
لعلكم ربما تعلمون أن المحكمة الإدارية العليا ستنظر يوم السبت القادم 2 ديسمبر في موضوع حق البهائيين في الحصول على أوراق رسمية دون الاضطرار إلى ادعاء الدخول في الإسلام أو المسيحية. ولا أجد حاجة للتأكيد على أهمية الموضوع أو الدعوى أو الجلسة التي يتم فيها أقرار مبدأ نهائي غير قابل للطعن عليه قد يظل معنا لسنين طويلة قادمة. كما أن الأسئلة المطروحة على المحكمة والمبادئ التي تحاول وزارة الداخلية إقرارها من خلال هذا الطعن تتجاوز في تأثيرها جماعة البهائيين الصغيرة لتؤثر على الوضع القانوني لحرية العقيدة وتطبيق المادة الثانية من الدستور بشكل يمس جميع المصريين بشكل عام.

في الجلسات الماضية أمام دائرة فحص الطعون كانت المحكمة تحتشد بالمحامين والمواطنين المتشددين الذين كانوا يشيعون جواً من الإرهاب في المحكمة ضد المحامين والقضاة والصحفيين بمنتهى الغوغائية. كنا في العادة نقف فردين أو ثلاثة أمام حوالي خمسين من الطرف الآخر ونحارب باستماتة لنتمكن من مخاطبة المنصة. في جلسة السبت من المهم للغاية أن تحتشد قاعة المحكمة بأكبر عدد ممكن من المصريين المناهضين للتمييز على أساس العقيدة وأن يتقدموا إلى المنصة عند بدء مناقشة قضيتنا. لذلك فإننا نحتاج بشدة لحضور أكبر عدد من أعضاء مصريون ضد التمييز الديني، خاصة السادة أعضاء اللجنة القانونية. آسف لضيق الوقت ولكن الجلسة تحدد موعدها فجأة منذ بضعة أيام.
الجلسة موعدها العاشرة صباحاً بمجلس الدولة في الدقي بجوار شيراتون القاهرة. لمن يرغب في الحصول على أي معلومات أرجو الاتصال بي على
مع خالص الشكر
حسام بهجت


Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
Tel/fax: + (202) 795 0582- 796 2682
eipr@eipr.org
www.eipr.org

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