Sunday, February 18, 2007

Prominent Legal Minds on the Rights of Egyptian Baha'is

In Britain's newspaper, the Guardian on 13 February 2007 under a special report on Egypt, a number of respected lawyers and prominent legal scholars from the UK, Europe and the US made a courageous public stand regarding their position on the matter of the civil rights of Egyptian Baha'is.

The exact text of the statement of these leading legal authorities is posted below:

ID cards and Egypt

Tuesday February 13, 2007
The Guardian

As experienced lawyers we have serious concerns over the ID-card policy in Egypt, which requires Baha'is, and followers of some other religions, to deny their religion to obtain the mandatory card. Not wishing to lie, Baha'is cannot obtain ID cards and so are denied access to government services, such as medical care and education, cannot register marriages, births, divorces or property transactions, and cannot obtain passports. They are also subject to the threat of detention if the police ask them to show their card. This policy is inconsistent with Egypt's obligations under international law.

Prof Ilias Bantekas Brunel University, Benedetto Conforti former judge, European court of human rights, Prof Guy Goodwin-Gill All Souls College, Oxford, Prof Mark Janis University of Connecticut, Prof Jeffrey Jowell QC University College London, Prof Matthew Kramer University of Cambridge, Prof Dan Sarooshi University of Oxford, Prof Malcolm Shaw QC University of Leicester


  1. Do you think the Egyptian government would respond to this very serious statement?

  2. It is not only a moral obligation for the government to respond, it is also a legal obligation. No government policy in any country can put a group of citizens in the situation of you're damned if you tell the truth, and you are damned if you lie. I hope the government would take the moral high ground and correct its errors and inconsistencies.

    This group of prominent legal scholars and judges clearly identify the absurdity of the government's current position. Implicitly they are asking the government to correct the situation.

    I wish this group of prominent scholars would also state a legal opinion about hate crimes committed by at least one cabinet minister and one supreme judge.

  3. Anonymous & Nabil,
    An educated guess: the Egyptian government is unlikely to come out and openly respond to this legal statement, however it is likely that such an important pronouncement from this highly respected group of legal scholars will have an influence on the course of decision-making by the Egyptian government in its attempts to remedy the serious situation facing the Baha'is in Egypt.

  4. There are reasons that the Egyptian government is continuing to enforce its policy of discrimination while deliberately evading appeals from legal and diplomatic bodies.

    The conscious harassment directed towards the Baha’i community, initiated by policy makers and enforced by officials in all ranks of government carry motives evident to those familiar with the particular brand of justice that is found in Egypt:

     Gratify the more revolutionary elements of the Islamic population, and the large and growing majorities within their influence: irrelevant of religious interests, but applied as a favorable political position by which to leverage authority

     Legitimate dislike and intolerance directed towards any religion or belief other than Islam: a conviction justified as an appropriate defense against the “enemies” of Islam, whereby any means to annihilate the disbeliever are acceptable, and even encouraged, blessed and rewarded as a spiritual act

    The repeated evasion of the Egyptian government to address human rights violations, despite appeals and admonitions regarding its responsibilities as a member to various international treaties may be explained by:

     Fear of exposure to many other abuses, evidence of incompetence, practices of corruption, incapacity to govern…

     The sure knowledge that its repeated and simple disregard in the face of appeals from all entities and ranks of international bodies is more than sufficient to incapacitate what it sees as a body of words lacking the arm to carry out its enforcement

     No worthwhile political or economic benefit -or threat- to its current status that would justify a change in its policies

    While this may be the immediate situation, there is definite and effective action being taken to ensure the implementation of policies that would see no person or community, regardless of nationality, be left at the mercy of the violator. The report put forward by the group of prominent lawyers and legal scholars is yet another indication that this is coming to fulfillment.


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