28 November 2002

Original: FRENCH
Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee : Egypt. 11/28/2002.
CCPR/CO/76/EGY. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CCPR

Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee


1. The Committee considered the third and fourth periodic reports of Egypt, (CCPR/C/EGY/2001/3) at its 2048th and 2049th meetings, held on 17 and 18 October 2002 (CCPR/C/SR.2048 and CCPR/C/SR.2049), and adopted the following concluding observations at its 2067th meeting (CCPR/C/SR.2067) on 31 October 2002.

A. Introduction

2. The Committee welcomes the third and fourth periodic reports of Egypt, although it regrets the seven-year delay in submission of the third periodic report and points out that conflating two reports into one should be avoided in the future. It is nevertheless pleased to have been able to resume a dialogue with the State party, since eight years have passed since its consideration of the previous report. It notes that the report contains useful information about domestic legislation relating to the implementation of the Covenant and on developments in some legal and institutional fields since the second periodic report was considered. It regrets, however, the lack of information on case law and practical aspects of implementing the Covenant. It does welcome the willingness to cooperate voiced by the Egyptian delegation and in particular the transmission, at the Committee’s request, of written replies dated 22 October 2002 to oral questions raised during the examination of the report.

B. Positive aspects

3. The Committee welcomes some initiatives taken by the State party in recent years as regards human rights, in particular the creation of human rights divisions within the ministries of justice and foreign affairs and the introduction of human rights training and awareness programmes at schools and universities for law-enforcers and society at large. It also notes some improvements in the status of women and welcomes the creation of the National Council for Women and the introduction of legal reforms, in particular the passage of Act No. 1 of 2000, allowing women to end marriages unilaterally, and Act No. 14 of 1999, revoking the earlier law which offered the accused the opportunity of escaping liability for abduction and rape if he married the victim.

C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

4. The Committee regrets the lack of clarity surrounding the question of the legal standing of the Covenant in relation to domestic law and the attendant consequences.

5. While observing that the State party considers the provisions of the Islamic Shariah to be compatible with the Covenant, the Committee notes the general and ambiguous nature of the declaration made by the State party upon ratifying the Covenant.

6. The Committee is disturbed by the fact that the state of emergency proclaimed by Egypt in 1981 is still in effect, meaning that the State party has been in a semi-permanent state of emergency ever since.

7. While welcoming the steps taken by the authorities in recent years to encourage participation by women in public life (in the diplomatic service, for example), the Committee notes that women are underrepresented in most areas of the public sector (for instance, the magistrature) and in the private sector (articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant).

8. The Committee notes with concern that women seeking divorce through unilateral repudiation by virtue of Act No. 1 of 2000 must forego their rights to financial support and, in particular, to their dowries (articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant).
9. The Committee notes the discriminatory nature of some provisions in the Penal Code, which do not treat men and women equally in matters of adultery (articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant).

10. The Committee draws attention to the discrimination affecting women as regards transmission of nationality to their children when their spouses are not Egyptian and as regards the rules governing inheritance (articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant).

11. While taking note of the action and awareness campaigns against female genital mutilation, the Committee notes that this practice still continues (article 7 of the Covenant).

12. The Committee notes with concern the very large number of offences which, under Egyptian law, are punishable by the death penalty, and the incompatibility of certain of those offences with article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.

13. While noting the creation of institutional machinery and the introduction of measures to punish any violations of human rights by employees of the State, the Committee notes with concern the persistence of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the hands of law-enforcement personnel, in particular the security services, whose recourse to such practices appears to display a systematic pattern. It is equally concerned at the general lack of investigations into such practices, punishment of those responsible, and reparation for the victims. It is also concerned at the absence of any independent body to investigate such complaints (articles 6 and 7 of the Covenant).

14. The Committee regrets the lack of clarity about the law and practice in matters of detention in custody: the duration of such detention, and access to a lawyer during such detention. It points out that it has been given no information on the total duration of pre-trial detention or the offences involved. It is concerned at the lack of clarity concerning the safeguards laid down in article 9, paragraph 3, of the Covenant. The Committee also notes the persistent occurrence of cases of arbitrary detention.

15. While noting the explanations given by the delegation of the State party about the periodic and spontaneous inspections of prison establishments by the authorities, the Committee notes that detention conditions inconsistent with article 10 of the Covenant persist. It also regrets the impediments to visits by United Nations-instituted treaty and non-treaty human rights mechanisms and non-governmental human rights organizations.

16. While understanding the security requirements associated with efforts to combat terrorism, the Committee voices concern at their effects on the human rights situation in Egypt, particularly in relation to articles 6, 7, 9 and 14 of the Covenant.

(a) The Committee considers that the effect of the very broad and general definition of terrorism given in Act No. 97 of 1992 is to increase the number of offences attracting the death penalty in a way that runs counter to the sense of article 6, paragraph 2, of the Covenant.

(b) The Committee notes with alarm that military courts and State security courts have jurisdiction to try civilians accused of terrorism although there are no guarantees of those courts’ independence and their decisions are not subject to appeal before a higher court (article 14 of the Covenant).

(c) The Committee notes furthermore that Egyptian nationals suspected or convicted of terrorism abroad and expelled to Egypt have not benefited in detention from the safeguards required to ensure that they are not ill-treated, having notably been held incommunicado for periods of over one month (articles 7 and 9 of the Covenant).
17. The Committee is concerned about infringements of the right to freedom of religion or belief.

(a) The Committee deplores the ban on worship imposed on the Bahai community.

(b) The Committee is also concerned at the pressures applied to the judiciary by extremists claiming to represent Islam, who have even succeeded, in some cases, in imposing on courts their own interpretation of the religion (articles 14, 18 and 19 of the Covenant).

18. The Committee is deeply concerned at the State party’s failure to take action following the publication of some very violent articles against the Jews in the Egyptian press, which in fact constitute advocacy of racial and religious hatred and incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence.

19. The Committee notes the criminalization of some behaviours such as those characterized as “debauchery” (articles 17 and 26 of the Covenant).

20. While noting the efforts the State party has made to ensure that people are educated about human rights and tolerance, the Committee observes that results in this area are still inadequate.

21. The Committee is concerned at the restrictions placed by Egyptian legislation and practice on the foundation of non-governmental organizations and the activities of such organizations such as efforts to secure foreign funding, which require prior approval from the authorities on pain of criminal penalties (article 22 of the Covenant).

22. The Committee notes the de jure and de facto impediments to the establishment and functioning of political parties, primarily created by the committee set up under the Political Parties Act No. 40 of 1977, without full guarantees of independence (articles 22 and 25 of the Covenant).

23. The State party should disseminate widely the text of its periodic reports and the present concluding observations.

24. In accordance with article 70, paragraph 5, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party should within one year provide information on the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations in paragraphs 6, 12, 13, 16 and 18 of the present text. The Committee requests the State party to provide in its next report, which it is scheduled to submit by 1 November 2004, information on the other recommendations made and on its implementation of the Covenant as a whole.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland