Monday, June 30, 2008

Resolution At US Congress Harshly Critical of Human Rights Situation in Egypt

The US Congress will be voting soon on resolution H. Res. 1303 calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Frank Wolf [R-VA] and cosponsored by several other congressmen, was submitted to the US House of Representatives and referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 24, 2008.

The Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported today on this legislation and called it "embarrassing" for Egypt. The case of the Baha'is of Egypt was also brought to light in this newspaper report as well as in the resolution itself.

The full text of the legislation is posted below:

HRES 1303 IH


2d Session

H. RES. 1303

Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.


June 24, 2008

Mr. WOLF (for himself, Mr. BURTON of Indiana, Mr. SMITH of New Jersey, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, Mr. FOSSELLA, Mr. KIRK, Mr. MCCOTTER, Ms. SCHAKOWSKY, Mr. SOUDER, Mr. DAVIS of Illinois, Mr. PITTS, Ms. WATERS, Mr. PENCE, Mr. MCGOVERN, and Mr. GOODE) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs


Calling on the Egyptian Government to respect human rights and freedoms of religion and expression in Egypt.

Whereas the promotion of respect for democracy, human rights, and civil liberties are fundamental principles and aims of the United States;

Whereas the United States attaches great importance to relations with Egypt and considers fair and transparent elections as the only way to make progress towards a more democratic society;

Whereas Egypt plays a significant role in the Middle East peace process and in the fight against international terrorism and fundamentalism;

Whereas the Egyptian authorities have promised to put an end to the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers, but this promise has so far gone unfulfilled;

Whereas Shiites, Koranists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religious minorities are harassed, arrested, and imprisoned by security services;

Whereas all Baha’i institutions and community activities have been banned in Egypt since 1960, and members of the Baha’i faith are denied government required identification cards solely due to their religious affiliation;

Whereas material vilifying Jews appears regularly in the state controlled and semi official media;

Whereas the Copts, Egypt’s largest religious minority group and the largest Christian population in the Middle East, suffer from many forms of discrimination, including--
(1) a lack of employment in higher positions of the public sector, universities, army, and the security service;

(2) disproportional representation in Parliament and Shura Council;

(3) difficulty in building and repairing churches;

(4) lack of protection and lack of prosecution of perpetrators in cases of sectarian violence;

(5) government harassment of converts to Christianity while the government encourages conversion to Islam; and

(6) the inability to obtain government issued identification cards which reflect conversion to Christianity;
Whereas the opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour is still serving a five-year prison sentence following an unfair trial in 2005 on politically motivated charges;

Whereas his health is deteriorating as a consequence of this imprisonment;

Whereas his numerous appeals for release on the grounds of his medical conditions and his request for a presidential pardon in March of 2008 have all been rejected;

Whereas Egyptian authorities closed the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and its branches, this being the first closure of a nongovernmental advocacy organization by an executive decision;

Whereas the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies and its founder, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, have been threatened for their work to promote democratic reforms;

Whereas other civil society development organizations, including the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, have also been restricted in their work; and

Whereas the recent arrests and action against nongovernmental organizations and human rights defenders undermines the commitments entered into by the Egyptian Government concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the democratic process in the country: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) recognizes that respect for human rights is a fundamental value, and the bilateral relationship between the United States and Egypt should be a platform for promoting the rule of law and fundamental freedoms;

(2) calls on the Egyptian Government to end all forms of harassment, including judicial measures, the detention of media professionals and, more generally, human rights defenders and activists calling for reforms and to fully respect freedom of expression, in conformity with article 19 of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

(3) encourages the Egyptian Government to honor its commitment to repeal the state of emergency in order to allow for the full consolidation of the rule of law in Egypt;

(4) encourages the Egyptian Government to take the steps necessary to fully implement and protect the rights of religious minorities as full citizens;

(5) strongly supports measures to guarantee academic freedom, freedom of the media, and freedom of religion or belief in Egypt, including by ending arbitrary administrative measures, such as those taken against the Centre for Trade Union and Workers’ Services and the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid;

(6) urges the Egyptian Government not to impose arbitrary restrictions on the peaceful activities of civil society organizations;

(7) calls on the Egyptian Government for--
(A) the immediate release of Ayman Nour, in light of reports of his deteriorating state of health, and calls for an immediate welfare visit, including a visit by qualified medical personnel;

(B) the release of all political prisoners and other activists; and

(C) an end to the harassment of the Koranists;
(8) stresses the need to fully implement the principles of the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and the 1993 International Convention concerning the rights and the protection of migrant workers and their families;

(9) supports the concluding observations of the United Nations Committee on Migrant Workers of May 2007, which called for the re-opening of the investigations into the killing of 27 Sudanese asylum-seekers in December 2005;

(10) calls for an end to all forms of torture and ill treatment and calls for investigations when there is reasonable suspicion that acts of torture have occurred;

(11) calls on the Egyptian Government to allow--
(A) a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and

(B) a visit by the the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief;
(12) emphasizes the importance of ensuring and strengthening the independence of the judiciary by amending or repealing all legal provisions that infringe or do not sufficiently guarantee its independence;

(13) stresses the need for respect and protection of the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion as ensured in article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the 1981 United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination based on Religion and Belief;

(14) welcomes the efforts made by Egypt to secure the border with Gaza and encourages all parties concerned to redouble efforts to fight smuggling through tunnels into the Gaza strip; and

(15) urges the President and the Secretary of State to put human rights and religious freedom developments in Egypt very high on the United States Government’s agenda during meetings with Egyptian officials.

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