Barney Leith posted in his blog "Barnabas quotidianus" on a recent significant debate in the British Parliament. The case of the Egyptian Baha'is was brought-up in relation to the Foreign Affairs Committee's Eighth report of 2006-07 Parliamentary session on global security in the middle east. During the session of 25 January 2008, Bob Spink MP of Castle Point said the following:
Again, I congratulate the Committee on this excellent report on a difficult matter.
I shall speak on a narrow subject. In chapter 5 of the report, on Egypt, I note that the part entitled “Human Rights and Democratisation” does not address a certain issue. I understand the Committee’s difficulty in visiting every point on human rights, but minority rights in Egypt are important, and I wish to flag them up.
The inception of a new system of computerised ID cards in Egypt compelled its citizens to identify themselves as members of one of three constitutionally recognised religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Members of Egypt’s Baha’i minority have been unable to register as citizens of their own country. On 16 December 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court upheld the Government’s position that forces Baha’is either to falsely claim to be a member of a religion or go without an ID card. Egyptian Baha’is are therefore unable to register the birth of their children, denying those children access to education, jobs and medical treatment. They are effectively unable to live as citizens in the country of their birth. That is a minority issue, and it is understandable why it is not covered in the report. Other religious groups in Egypt, including the Copts, who have changed their religion, have also faced a problem in getting ID cards.
Denying fundamental freedoms to Egyptian citizens on that basis appears to be a breach of Egypt’s obligations under article 18 of the international covenant on civil and political rights, as was asserted in a recent report by Human Rights Watch and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. It would be useful for future reports of the Foreign Affairs Committee to examine minority rights, if possible.
To read the rest of the debate, please visit Barney's blog at this link....