Thursday, January 31, 2013

PM promises police officers right to use live ammo against protesters

Egypt Independent

Qandil promises CSF officers right to enforce demonstration law

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Prime Minister Hesham Qandil promised Central Security Forces officers Wednesday that they would be given the right to enforce the demonstration law, which would allow them to disperse riots gradually, using tear gas first and then live bullets, depending on how dangerous the riots are. 
Qandil met with the officers in at their camp in Darrasa district to appease their anger for the death of their colleagues while securing the Port Said prison. He also promised to financially compensate the families of police martyrs, as with the martyrs of the revolution.

He said President Mohamed Morsy appreciates what they do to protect citizens from criminals.
The officers requested that Qandil put his promise in writing and announce it in the media.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim also attended the meeting, which had been postponed three times. It was originally scheduled to take place at 10 am, before being moved to 12 pm and finally 3 pm.

Ibrahim had previously provoked anger among the recruits after deciding to disarm them and allow them to only be armed with tear gas.

Unrest has continued after clashes broke out amid anniversary demonstrations last week, as well as after the verdict in the Port Said football violence case. A court recommended death sentences for 21 defendants in the case.

At least 72 football fans died in the violence last year, which broke out at Port Said Stadium when Masry team fans overran the pitch after a match with Cairo-based Ahly team.

At least 53 people have died in the violence nationwide.

*Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

18 arrested on charges of belonging to Black Bloc

Egypt Independent

18 arrested on charges of belonging to Black Bloc

January 31, 2013

Eighteen suspects accused of belonging a group of protesters known as the Black Bloc were arrested on Thursday, and at least one is accused of ties with Israel, said the prosecutor general’s office.

The Black Bloc is a previously unknown group that began appearing at demonstrations marking the anniversary of the 25 January revolution last week.

One suspect was arrested in a building on Tahrir Square, and allegedly was in possession of maps and documents pertaining to vital institutions in Cairo, including banks and oil companies, claimed a statement issued by the prosecutor's office, as reported in state-run news agency MENA. 
The prosecution claimed that the map in question was Israeli-made, although he did not elaborate on how the authorities knew that it was Israeli in origin.

AFP quoted Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor saying he had no idea whether or not the Black Bloc member intended to carry out a plan of sabotage, but the claim of Israeli involvement was "utter nonsense."

Another individual was arrested in Mahalla while allegedly negotiating a deal with a garment factory owner to manufacture the black masks and outfits worn by Black Bloc protesters, alleged the prosecution.

The Mahalla suspect may have been attempting to recruit university students and youth to join the group, Yassin claimed, alleging that a number of students had testified that the suspect invited them to join the Black Bloc.

Orders have been given to the police and army officers to immediately arrest anyone in a Black Bloc mask.

*Edited translation from MENA

**Photo of police in black masks (apparently not a crime if the pigs wear them) by Mahmoud Abdel Ghany 
***Dictator Morsillini & his hand-picked Islamist puppet public prosecutor are sinking lower everyday with their vile lies, murder & oppression. Shameless power-hungry bastards!

Egypt's Dictator Morsi Cannot Escape Protesters

President's emergency powers are excessive, unwarranted

Human Rights Watch
Egypt: Emergency Powers Excessive
January 30, 2013
Detention Without Judicial Review; Trials Lacking Appeal Rights
(New York) – President Mohamed Morsy of Egypt should reverse the emergency powers he issued on January 27, 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. The emergency powers give the police the authority to detain people in three cities for up to 30 days without any judicial review, and permit trials of those detained before emergency security courts. Judicial review of detention is a fundamental right that may not be removed, even during emergencies.
 On January 28 the Shura Council, Egypt’s partially elected upper house, passed a law that would give military officers the right to arrest civilians, which would therefore give them the right to bring civilians before military courts. The law will come into force after ratification by the President and publication in the official gazette which is yet to occur. President Morsy should order an end to military trials of civilians and instruct Egyptian military commanders to bring all civilians they arrest before civilian courts, Human Rights Watch said.

“The government has the duty to take reasonable steps to protect security, but this knee-jerk response granting the police excessive powers is certainly not the answer,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “What is glaringly missing are orders to the police and military to exercise restraint in their use of force and to warn that all official abuses will be punished.”

President Morsy’s January 27 state of emergency was for 30 days in three cities – Port Said, Suez, and Ismailia – after two days of clashes between the police and protesters left over 50 dead. While the geographic and time limits of the state of emergency are an improvement over the previous indefinite nationwide emergency law, the powers granted under the new emergency law are excessive and violate non-derogable rights – rights that may not be taken away, Human Rights Watch said. Under Law 162 of 1958, which has been brought back into force by Morsy’s decree, authorities may arrest people without warrants and detain them for up to 30 days without judicial review.

The clashes over the past three days in Port Said, in response to a court verdict sentencing 21 people to death, have left at least 2 policemen and 37 protesters dead. In Suez eight people were killed after police used excessive force in response to the shooting of a police officer.

Over the past two years, Human Rights Watch has documented numerous occasions in which riot police and military police alike have repeatedly used excessive force and used non-lethal weapons unlawfully when policing protests, injuring and killing over 1,000 protesters. There has been no reform of the security sector and no accountability for these abuses, giving security forces the impression that they are not accountable, Human Rights Watch said.

Law 162 of 1958 also allows for trials before Emergency State Security Courts, which former President Hosni Mubarak’s government used for swift politicized trials since emergency court decisions may not be appealed. Article 75 of the recently passed constitution states that “trial before exceptional courts are prohibited,” in theory making articles 7 to 20 of the emergency law unconstitutional.

Under international law nations may declare a state of emergency when there is a “public emergency that threatens the life of the nation.” This declaration must be temporally and geographically limited to the greatest extent possible. Every derogation from international human rights law must be justified in terms of necessity and be proportionate. The United Nations Human Rights Committee’s General Comment on article 4 (on states of emergency) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party, states that:
States parties may in no circumstances invoke article 4 of the Covenant as justification for acting in violation of … peremptory norms of international law, for instance through arbitrary deprivations of liberty or by deviating from fundamental principles of fair trial, including the presumption of innocence…In order to protect non-derogable rights, the right to take proceedings before a court to enable the court to decide without delay on the lawfulness of detention, must not be diminished by a State party’s decision to derogate from the Covenant.
Other key rights are also non-derogable during a state of emergency, including the right to life, the prohibition of torture, and the principle of legality in criminal law. The imposition of the emergency law in Egypt has historically invited police abuse because it allowed the police to detain people for up to 45 days without ever seeing a prosecutor. In a case before the European Court of Human Rights, the court found excessive Turkey’s detention of a person for 14 days without judicial review during a declared state of emergency. A country may not suspend the right to judicial review of detention even in emergency, Human Rights Watch said.

On January 28, the cabinet approved and the Shura Council passed amendments to Law 107 of 2012, which President Morsy had issued on December 9, 2012. Following a court order voiding earlier elections to Egypt’s lower house, the Shura Council alone exercises legislative functions. The December 9 law authorized a military role in law enforcement during the constitutional referendum.

The amendments extend the law, allowing the military to deploy and carry out arrests whenever the National Defense Council brings the law into force. The council’s membership, set out in article 197 of the constitution, consists of seven senior military leaders sitting with the president and key cabinet ministers.

Over the past two years, since the departure of President Mubarak, the military has exercised law enforcement activities over civilians on a number of occasions. When military officers have arrested civilians, they normally have considered the fact that the military carried out the arrests sufficient grounds to bring those detained before military tribunals. A cabinet source told Reuters on January 28 that the army would “behave like a police force” and would therefore hand civilians over to civilian courts. Human Rights Watch’s analysis of Law 107, however, concluded that it did not protect civilians from trial before military courts, because article 3 specifies that the law was “without prejudice to the jurisdiction of the military justice system.”

“Unless the law is amended to specifically limit the jurisdiction of the military justice system to purely military offenses, civilians may still be taken to military courts whenever the military feels like it,” Stork said.

Prosecutor general demands Black Bloc arrests

Daily News Egypt

Prosecutor general demands Black Bloc arrests

January 29, 2013

Luiz Sanchez

Black Bloc carrying out “terrorist activities” according to Talaat Abdullah

Prosecutor General Talaat Abdullah has ordered the arrest of all suspected Black Bloc activists. Abdullah’s office has proof the Black Bloc is carrying out “terrorist activities”, according to state-owned MENA.

MENA did not provide additional information as to what sorts of terrorist activities have been carried out, nor what kind of proof is available. Nevertheless Abdullah’s spokesperson Hassan Yassin said the group has conducted acts of sabotage, destruction and intimidation which are punishable by the penal code.

The police have been instructed to arrest people wearing black clothing and balaclavas. Yassin said the prosecutor general urges anyone with information about the group to come forward.

The Black Bloc first appeared last Thursday, as groups of people dressed in black with their faces covered descended on Tahrir. Those present announced they would oppose the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsy with force if necessary.

The Brotherhood, several other Islamist parties and the government have attributed recent violence to the Black Bloc.

The Black Bloc is not a movement or a group, but rather a protest tactic that emerged as a response to increased use of police force in Germany in the 1980s. By concealing their faces and wearing black protesters maintain anonymity while their uniform appearance gives the impression of unity.

Black Bloc anarchists emerge in Egypt

BBC News

Black Bloc anarchists emerge

January 28, 2013

The Black Bloc, a new Egyptian anarchist group, made its first appearance last week, on the eve of the second anniversary of the 25 January 2011 revolution. With a declared aim of fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, it has drawn a lot of mainstream criticism. 

The group appears to be drawing inspiration from European Black Bloc protesters, using the same tactics first seen in Germany in the 1970s and more recently at anti-globalization protests.
Internationally, Black Bloc members dress all in black, concealing their faces and often resort to violence.

The size of Black Bloc in Egypt is not clear, but the group appears to have forged links with other Egyptian revolutionary groups, including the "Ultras", who are hardcore fans of Cairo's al-Ahly football club.

Members of the group appeared in Tahrir Square on 25 January, banging drums and saying they would "continue the revolution" and "defend protesters". Others were reported by the al-Ahram news website to be blocking tram tracks in the northern city of Alexandria.
'Bringing down tyrants'

Facebook pages have been set up, attracting thousands of subscribers. They feature violent rhetoric against the Muslim Brotherhood and instructional videos on street fighting.

The Black Bloc describes itself as a group that is "striving to liberate people, end corruption and bring down tyrants".

"We had to appear officially to fight against the regime of the fascist tyrants, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their military wing," the group said in an online video.

Filmed at night, the short video shows men wearing black clothes and black masks. Some hold the Egyptian flag while others carry black flags with an "A" sign - an international symbol of anarchism.

In a statement published on its Facebook page on 25 January, the group claimed responsibility for an arson attack on the office of the Muslim Brotherhood's official website and a famous restaurant in Cairo believed to be owned by a Muslim Brotherhood figure.

"We declare our revolution today in Tahrir Square until Egypt and its people get their rights back," it added. "We are not thugs or saboteurs, but rather we defend Egypt against the criminality of the Muslim Brotherhood."

One of the Black Bloc's founders, Sharif al-Sirfi, has said the group has adopted the slogan, "Vengeance or Revolution".

On 27 January, he told the al-Watan newspaper: "We seek to get the rights of martyrs, and this can not be achieved except through fair revenge, which is the execution of those who are found guilty of killing the martyrs."

Another member of the group, speaking to the al-Yawm al-Sabi news website on condition of anonymity, said its members included Ultras, activists from the leftist 6 April Youth Movement, and unaffiliated young people.
Wave of criticism

The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated TV channel, Misr 25, reported on 26 January that the Black Bloc
was "part of the alleged revolutionary movements, such as anarchism and the [Egyptian Trotskyist] Revolutionary Socialists".

"These movements reject the existence of a political, judicial or parliamentary system at all. They call for societies without the state. In order to achieve this, they adopt all forms of violent and barbaric acts, such as killing and burning," the report said.

"These anarchic sabotage groups are not revolutionary groups. Rather, they use the revolution as a cover to cause chaos."

The methods the group uses have sparked a wave of criticism in the mainstream media. Some commentators describe it as a "terrorist group".

"It is a group of young extremists who adopt anarchic ideas, copying the Western terrorist movements calling themselves the Black Bloc," Hani Salah-al-Din wrote in al-Yawm al-Sabi.

State-run Nile News TV has reported that the group attacked President Muhammad Morsi's house in his hometown of Zagazig in al-Sharqiyah governorate on 25 January.

It also said a number of group members were arrested during clashes with security forces near Tahrir Square on the first day of their demonstrations.

*Photo courtesy of REUTERS

Video: Black Bloc Egypt - First Communiqué

البيان الأول . بلاك بلوك مصر

Concerns over media freedoms under Morsi dictatorship

Agence France Presse
Concerns over media freedoms in Morsi's Egypt

23 January 2013

AFP - The Cairo cafe is packed with patrons in stitches as television host Bassem Youssef fires his caustic criticism at President Mohamed Morsi, but post-revolution media freedoms have proved no laughing matter for some.

Youssef's razor sharp wit, delivered on his weekly programme Albernameg (The Show), has spared few public figures, least of all President Morsi and members of his Muslim Brotherhood.

But the heart surgeon turned comedian who enjoys a massive following has now joined the ranks of several colleagues in the media who face charges of insulting the president.

The soaring number of legal complaints against journalists has cast doubt on Morsi's commitments to freedom of expression -- a key demand of the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Prominent rights lawyer Gamal Eid told state-owned Ahram online that there have been four times as many lawsuits for "insulting the president" in Morsi's first 200 days in office than during the entire 30 years that Mubarak ruled.

During his election campaign, Morsi pledged to guarantee media freedom, and vowed "not to stop anyone from writing or ban any opinion" during his tenure.

But in recent months, the lawsuits have multiplied.

The presidency accused veteran journalist and television show host Mahmud Saad and his guest psychologist Manal Omar of insulting the president after she said Morsi who served jail time was suffering from psychological problems.

Morsi, a former senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, had several stints in jail under Mubarak.
The legal complaints are a "a very dangerous sign that the presidency believes freedom of opinion and expression must be restricted. The current regime is unwilling to deal with criticism," said Emad Mubarak, who heads the Association for Freedom and Thought of Expression.

"It seems that the presidency and its loyalists are on a campaign to scare journalists in order to have a soft and obedient media," he told AFP.

According to human rights lawyers, under Mubarak, the presidency had never officially filed a legal complaint against a journalist.

But lawyers with ties to Mubarak's legal team filed the suits, such as in the case against outspoken journalist Ibrahim Eissa, accusing him of spreading rumours about Mubarak's health.

Eissa received a jail sentence in 2008 but was eventually pardoned by Mubarak.

The presidency denied it was targeting the media and said it "welcomed all constructive criticism and is against banning any opinion but when it comes to accusations against the president. The matter must go through a legal investigation to prove whether the claims are true or not."

Presidency spokesman Yasser Ali insisted that the legal complaints filed targeted news that is "entirely made up."

"Freedom in the new Egypt must be according to the law," he said.

The new Islamist-drafted constitution does not explicitly ban the jailing of journalists for their writings, and says that newspapers can be shut down or confiscated if there is a legal ruling.

Under the penal code, people can be jailed for up to three years for insulting the president or religions. But the wording is vague and can easily be manipulated, critics say.

"The problem is in the laws that allow for journalists to be subject to a criminal prosecution," said rights activist Negad al-Borei, who believes the issue leads to heavy self-censorship.

Earlier this month, the independent daily ran a a spoof issue entitled "Al-Watan under the Brotherhood", with pictures of its editor and journalists sporting Islamic beards and with articles praising Morsi.

"We came up with the idea because of all the pressures faced by the media," said the paper's editor-in-chief Magdi al-Gallad.

When it comes to media freedom, "Morsi's first six months are much worse than all of Mubarak's era. Mubarak was more politically savvy in dealing with the media," Gallad said.

The legal cases have also raised concerns abroad.

"We strongly oppose any kind of legal restrictions on freedom of expression, and we continue to urge the Egyptian government to respect freedom of expression," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters during a recent briefing.

Rights group says Egypt police behaves like 'gang'

Associated Press
Rights group says Egypt police behaves like 'gang'

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

An Egyptian rights group on Tuesday accused the country's police of "acting like a gang," torturing detainees and continuing to use violence to impose control while the country's president flounders at efforts to reform the powerful security apparatus.

The report released by The Egyptian Initiative For Personal Rights documented 16 cases of police violence in which 11 people were killed and 10 tortured inside police stations. Three died under torture during the first four months since President Mohammed Morsi took office on June 30, it said.

The police were among the most hated state institutions under Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's longtime ruler deposed in a popular revolt in 2011. Flagrant abuse, torture and unjustified detention were some of the main drivers of the uprising.
"Police still use excessive force and torture is still systematic just as it was under the Mubarak regime," the group said in its report, entitled "Killing Continues." It also accused the police of carrying out random shootings and collective punishment.

The government did not immediately respond to the report. An Interior Ministry official who did not give his name because he was not authorized to brief the media described it as "untrue" and "full of exaggerations."

The rights group said the cases it investigated show that police still operate with impunity and a complete absence of accountability, with an increasing number of cases where officers had acted "like a gang taking revenge."

In one case, it said police attacked a village south of Cairo last summer, beating up pedestrians, smashing shops and destroying vehicles. When residents protested, police returned the next day, firing tear gas and live ammunition at random, leaving four villagers dead and others wounded.

In another case, a police force allegedly trashed coffee shops and beat people in a village in the Nile Delta region northeast of Cairo in September. The group said one young man was arrested and beaten to death inside a police station.

When angry residents protested the killing in front of the police station, police responded by firing on the crowd, killing one and injuring another. The Interior Ministry said in a statement at the time that officers fired to prevent residents' from storming the station.

That same month, the group documented three deaths inside police stations in three different cities, where it said the official cause of death was a suspicious "suicide" or "drop in blood pressure."

In a third and similar incident in southern Egypt, the group said police took revenge for the killing of one of their own.

The group says they "imposed collective punishment" by opening fire randomly in the streets, attacking residents and injuring a 9-year-old girl with a bullet to the head.

Egypt witnessed an unprecedented collapse of its police force during the early days of the 2011 uprising, when tens of thousands of protesters outnumbered riot police and even chased them in the streets. Nearly 850 protesters were killed during the 18-day revolt. Some 100 policemen were charged with killing protesters, but almost all have been acquitted or seen the charges dropped.

With the country awash with weapons looted from police stations during the uprising or smuggled across borders from Libya, street violence has surged and civilians regularly react to police violence with riots and clashes.

In one of the latest incidents, at least 47 were injured on Tuesday when security forces clashed with protesters in the northwestern city of Marsa Matrouh on the Mediterranean Coast. According to a security official, the families of men sentenced to six months imprisonment by a military tribunal for drug dealing tried to storm a police station, prompting police to fire tear gas and attack the crowd.

The protesters could not be reached for comment. Military tribunals, widely rejected in Egypt, are known for their swift and harsh verdicts.

Just south of Cairo on the same day, three policemen were briefly kidnapped by drug dealers during a police ambush, a security official said. They were released when authorities sent reinforcements.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

*Photo courtesy of AP

Egypt's Constitution curtails labor rights & workers' freedoms

Egypt Independent

Egypt's Constitution seen to curtail labor rights and workers freedoms 

January 22, 2013

Jano Charbel 

Labor provisions in Egypt's new Constitution are worrying workers and unionists alike, who fear that a lot of room has been left to restrict labor rights.

Drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly, the new Constitution maintains the Nasser-era workers’ quotas in company administrations and reserves 50 percent of seats in parliament for representatives of workers and farmers.

It also maintains many of the labor provisions in the 1971 Constitution, which workers deem to be outdated — even detrimental — such as an article allowing forced labor.

Even some of the novel articles may end up negatively effecting Egypt’s workforce, namely stipulations seen as normalizing child labor, others legitimizing the military trials of civilians that may be used against striking workers, as well as new restrictions that may serve to outlaw numerous professional associations, particularly independent unions and syndicates.

The vague terminology of the new charter leaves room for interventionist legislation. For example, while Article 63 mentions “the right to peaceful strike”— not mentioned in Egypt’s older constitutions — the legislation that is being issued to regulate this article suggest that the right to strike will be curtailed.

Municipal laws regulating workers' rights indicate that Egypt's new ruling regime aims to keep both workers' and union movements on a short leash. These including Presidential Decree 97/2012 amending Trade Union Law 35/1976, Law 105/2012 regulating street vendors, and the Shura Council’s draft law on protests and strikes.


Since the 25 January uprising, more than 1,000 independent unions were established nationwide, some in non-unionized workforces, others in parallel to existing unions affiliated to the state-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF).

In parallel to the official syndicates, two independent teachers’ unions were established while at least three press syndicates were created. However, the status of these independent entities is being brought into question in light of Egypt’s new Constitution.

Articles 51 to 53 stipulate union freedoms but place limitations on these freedoms. The restrictive Article 53 contradicts the provisions of Article 51, which stipulates “the right to establish associations and civil institutions, subject to notification only. Such institutions shall operate freely, and be deemed legal persons.”

Former Minister of Manpower, Ahmad Hassan al-Borei, declared that these constitutional articles "fail to protect union plurality and democracy." In turn, they stand in "violation of International Labor Organization’s conventions 87 and 98," concerning freedom of association, the right to organize, and collective bargaining, which Egypt ratified since the 1950s but has largely failed to uphold.

A newly added provision, Article 53 limits the plurality of professional associations by allowing only one professional syndicate per profession. It also says “authorities may not disband the boards of professional syndicates except with a court order, and may not place them under sequestration.”

As a founding member of the Independent Teachers' Syndicate — Egypt's second independent professional association, established in 2010 — Abdel Hafiz Tayil expressed his disillusionment with the new Constitution.

Still, he says, "Article 53 will not affect our syndicate or its legal status because we are registered with the Ministry of Manpower as an independent labor union — not a professional syndicate."

The teacher explains that according to Article 51, the Ministry of Manpower cannot dissolve syndicates or unions without a court order. Rather, it’s Article 52 that may be problematic.

Tayil says, “It is Article 52 that is more likely to affect us. While this article stipulates the right to establish unions, it does not mention how to register such unions.”

He clarified that a new trade union law will regulate Article 52, and will open the door to intervention from the state. The manpower ministry may in the future issue decrees that “negatively affect the right to establish unions," he says, “…especially independent unions. The minister may decline to recognize these new associations and refuse to grant them a legal [status].”

Tayil thinks that Egypt’s new ruling powers “will formulate laws according to their whims,” and to combat this, “popular resistance to unjust draft laws is the only way to keep authorities from issuing additionally repressive labor and union legislation."

According to Talal Shokr, an executive board member of the Egyptian Democratic Labor Congress (EDLC), "The Brotherhood has historically had a strong presence amongst certain professional syndicates,” particularly doctors, lawyers and engineers. 

He adds, “They sought to solidify their hold on professional syndicates through their constitution, while simultaneously moving into the sphere of labor unions, where they had a negligible presence.”

Shokr claims that moves are being made to "Brotherhoodize labor unions through [Brotherhood-affiliated Manpower Minister] Khaled al-Azhary and his appointment of tens of officials in the ETUF."

He thinks the minister will become “increasingly obstructive towards attempts at establishing independent unions, while openly rejecting any attempts to establish alternate professional syndicates."

Late last year, the EDLC and the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions both called on workers to vote against the draft constitution in the referendum, claiming that its provisions strip them of their basic rights. The Constitution passed however, with a 63.8 percent “yes” vote amid a low turnout of around 30 percent.


Controversial Article 14 of the new constitution is nearly identical to Article 23 of the 1971 charter, linking wages with production and stipulating that a national minimum wage be established to “guarantee decent living standards for all citizens.”

Mohamed Abdel Galeel, an administrative worker, criticizes the article for tying “wages to production, not to rising prices or inflation. It does not take into consideration workers' use of old and outdated machinery, and the malfunction of these machines."

"How are we to support and feed ourselves with our poor wages in a future characterized by skyrocketing living expenses, the lifting of subsidies, public spending cuts, and tax hikes?" he asks.

Prior to and in the aftermath of the 25 January uprising, a main labor demand has been the establishment of a minimum wage between LE 1,200 and LE 1,500. In October 2011, however, Egypt’s Cabinet set a unified minimum wage of around half that, at LE 700. Even so, this minimum wage is yet to be enforced in the public and private sectors.

In April 2012, the now dissolved People’s Assembly set a maximum wage of LE 50,000, but only within the public sector. This law stipulates that the cap on wages should not exceed 35 times the minimum wage, although workers have been demanding that the maximum wage be no more than 15 times the minimum.

Article 14 goes further to set “maximum wages in civil service positions with exemptions regulated by law.”


Although liberal political forces within the Constituent Assembly had sought to cancel longstanding quotas for Egypt's toiling masses, the new constitution retains quotas for workers and farmers on the administrative boards of companies, and in both houses of parliament, via Articles 27 and 229, respectively.

The wording of the constitution, Abbas claims, “makes it seem as if they are safeguarding and upholding labor rights by keeping the 50 percent workers’ and farmers’ quota [in parliament].”
However, he argues, this provision will likely be implemented for only one, five-year term, and then abandoned via parliamentary laws regulating these elections.

According to Shokr, worker and farmer representatives in parliament have typically not represented their constituents, but rather the ruling regimes.

"In a few months we’ll see just how these so-called workers and farmers will endorse and issue a host of anti-labor legislation," he predicts.


From the 1971 Constitution, the 2012 charter also inherits the controversial provision allowing for forced labor, and ironically, provides fewer guarantees against this practice.

Article 13 of the 1971 Constitution stipulated that “no work shall be enforced upon citizens, except by virtue of law and for the performance of a public service and in return for a fair remuneration.” In the new Constitution, Article 63 removes “for fair remuneration” to merely stipulate: “There shall be no forced labor except in accordance with law.”

Though Egypt ratified ILO Conventions Nos. 29 and 105, concerning forced labor and the abolition of forced labor, in the 1950s, it has failed to legally uphold their provisions and is now seen to be enshrining this universally criminalized act.


Meanwhile, the Constitution is even more controversial for enshrining child labor, especially since there was no provision in the 1971 version allowing for this form of labor.

Article 70 of the new Constitution says, “Child labor is prohibited before passing the age of compulsory education, in jobs that are not fit for a child’s age, or that prevent the child from continuing education.”

Shokr says the phrasing on this particular issue “makes it seem like child labor is acceptable and only needs to be regulated.”

“Child labor is a crime which deprives children of their educational opportunities, playtime, and friends; and also denies them their childhoods,” he says, adding that the state should be ashamed and should work to abolish both child and forced labor.

These articles also contravene the ILO’s conventions 182 on the worst forms of child labor, Egypt ratified by Egypt in 2002; and 138 on the minimum age, ratified in 1999 and setting the minimum age for legal child labor at 15.


The contentious practice of trying citizens before military courts is now delineated in the Constitution under Article 198 “for crimes that harm the armed forces.”

Heba Morayef, director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt, says the wording “may allow for the referral of workers to military courts, for example, if they strike at one of the armed forces’ pasta factories.”

The article is all the more worrisome considering estimates that place the armed forces’ control of Egypt’s economy anywhere between 20-40 percent, in varied sectors employing hundreds of thousands nationwide.

Already, a number of citizens have been referred to military tribunals, including freelance journalist Mohamed Sabry, who is facing charges of entering a prohibited military zone and filming an army facility.

*Photo courtesy of Tabitha Ross

Egypt police responsible for deaths of 10s of civilians


Lawsuits for insulting president soar under Egypt’s Morsi

January 22, 2013

President Mohammed Morsi’s first 200 days in office have seen more lawsuits filed on charges of “insulting the president” than all Egyptian rulers since 1892, a leading rights group said, while another report laid out charges of continued police brutality since the revolution.

About 24 lawsuits for insulting Morsi have been filed against journalists and activists since his election in June, the Arab Network for Human Rights said in a report.

Under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, four such cases were filed, the group said. Only one case was filed under Anwar Sadat and five under King Farouk, it said. None were recorded during the rule of Gamal Abdel Nasser, when more violent methods were often used to suppress criticism.

The report, issued days before the second anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that ousted Mubarak, comes as Morsi faces growing criticism at home over his stewardship of the Arab world’s most populous nation.

His secularist, minority Christian and youth activist critics charge him with devoting more energy to cementing the power of the Muslim Brotherhood than to running the country. They are planning mass rallies on Jan. 25 against what they describe as the “Brotherhoodization” of Egypt.

Morsi has vowed to uphold press freedom. The Brotherhood has said the media is biased against Islamists, and accused it of stoking unrest that has hampered economic recovery and led to protests and clashes.

High-profile cases include television host Tawfiq Okasha, who was acquitted on Jan. 8 of insulting and incitement to kill Morsi, though his al-Faraeen satellite channel remains off air. The country’s top prosecutor, appointed by Morsi, also ordered an investigation into television comedian Bassem Youssef, whose satirical program is modeled on Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show,” following a complaint he insulted the president.

Separately, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights said at a press conference in Cairo today that it has documented at least 10 deaths in police stations and prisons, and 11 cases of unlawful killing of citizens by security forces between June and November last year.

“Although the January revolution was sparked in large part by police practices and vocally demanded an end to these practices,” the situation remains unchanged, the group said in the report.

It screened a video report into the death of Atef El-Mansy, who it said died as a result of torture in a police station where he had attempted to file a complaint against police aggression. When angry local people gathered around the station, police fired on them and another person was killed, the report said.

Morsi issued a decree in November that he said would guarantee the rights of those killed or injured by security forces in last year’s uprising, and ensure retrials for officials under Mubarak who were accused of responsibility.

Magda Boutros, a researcher at EIPR, said the law actually served as a cover for the creation of “a special prosecutorial office with permanent exceptional authorities whose members are chosen by the public prosecutor, himself chosen unilaterally by the president.”

More lawsuits filed for 'insulting president' under Morsi than Mubarak

Ahram Online
More 'insulting president' lawsuits under Morsi than Mubarak

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Prominent rights lawyer Eid says number of lawsuits for 'insulting the president' during President Morsi's first 200 days in office is higher than during Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign 

There were four times as many 'insulting the president' lawsuits during President Mohamed Morsi's first 200 days in office than during the entire 30-year reign of former president Hosni Mubarak.

There were four times as many 'insulting lawsuits during President Mohamed Morsi's first 200 days in office than during the entire 30-year reign of former president Hosni Mubarak.

This is the claim made by Gamal Eid, human rights lawyer and executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

Moreover, the number of such lawsuits during the Morsi era is more than during the entire period dating back to 1909 when the law was introduced (originally for 'insulting the king'), Eid said via Twitter.

Members and sympathisers of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which President Morsi hails, have allegedly used the accusation to intimidate opposition figures in the media.

In early January 2013, Islamist lawyers filed a lawsuit against political satirist Bassem Youssef for 'undermining the standing of the president' after he poked fun at President Morsi's speeches and put his image on a pillow. The charges were dropped before the case reached court.

In December 2012, the president's office accused psychiatrist Manal Omar and TV host Mahmoud Saad of insulting the president on the latter's programme Akhir Al-Nahar. They discussed the psychological effects of suppression and jail on those in power, with reference to President Morsi who spent seven months in jail during the Mubarak era and was detained for three days during revolution.

On Monday, ANHRI will issue an in-depth report on the issue called 'Insulting the President…A crime of an Autocratic Regime'.

The report will trace such lawsuits filed during the tenure of Egypt's five presidents, and will include the names of those put on trial, including journalists and grassroots activists.

The first person to be charged with 'insulting the king' was the journalist Ahmed Helmy, grandfather of Egyptian artist, poet and cartoonist Salah Jahin, in 1909. The most recent was Gamal Fahmy of the independent Tahrir newspaper in January 2013.

*Image courtesy of 'The Battle for Maat' Blog 

Prosecutor investigates TV host on charges of 'defaming Islam'

Egypt Independent

Prosecutor general investigates 'defamation of Islam' charges against Eissa

Sat. January 19, 2013

Prosecutor General Talat Abdallah will investigate a report accusing Al-Tahrir newspaper Editor-in-Chief Ibrahim Eissa of defaming Islam and ridiculing the Quran and Sharia.

The complaint was filed by a lawyer, who also handed over videos of Issa allegedly mocking Islam and its rituals on his satellite show.

Another video allegedly shows Issa sarcastically saying that if someone pickpockets a wallet their hand will be cut according to Sharia, but if they steal LE2 billion from the bank their hand won’t be cut off, while the audience laughs and claps. The complaint claims that his comments ridicule Sharia.

Eissa is one of the most prominent journalists opposing President Mohamed Morsy and the Muslim Brotherhood.  He had been sentenced to jail in the era of former President Hosni Mubarak on charges of spreading false news about his health, but Mubarak issued a presidential pardon for him. 

*Photo courtesy of Hossam Fadl

Egypt: Don't force Palestinians back to Syria

Human Rights Watch
Egypt: Don’t Force Palestinians Back to Syria
Two Syrian Refugees Unlawfully Returned to Syria Last Week
January 18, 2013
Two Palestinians being held at the Cairo airport, apparently refused entry to Egypt, are at risk of deportation to Syria, Human Rights Watch said today. The man and his son would face indiscriminate violence and possible persecution if returned to Syria. The Egyptian authorities should not to return anyone to Syria at this time.

It appears that some asylum seekers arriving from Syria in Egypt are at risk of refoulement, forced return to Syria, Human Rights Watch said.  Egyptian airport officials deported two Syrian men back to Syria on January 13, 2013, in violation of Egypt’s non-refoulement obligations. In mid-December, immigration officials halted an attempted deportation of 13 Syrians at the last minute.

“Egypt may have a right to detain people temporarily or investigate them on grounds of false documentation but it may not under any circumstance return them to Syria,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director at Human Rights Watch. “Egypt is obligated under international law not to return anyone, regardless of status, to a place where they would be persecuted.”

The authorities should allow representatives of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit the two men, Human Rights Watch said. The Palestinians told credible sources that they had entered Egypt from Syria using their official Palestinian refugee travel documents with the rest of their family.

Subsequently the man travelled to Turkey using his travel document and from there attempted to travel to a European Union country using improper documents, Turkish officials said. Turkish officials deported them to Egypt, where airport officials detained them on grounds of having attempted to travel using false documents and told them they would be deported.

UNHCR’s latest guidance on Syrian refugees calls on all countries to “maintain a moratorium on all returns to Syria for the time being, pending an assessment of when the changed situation in the country would permit return in safety and dignity.”

Both the Convention against Torture and the African Refugee Convention forbid Egypt from sending people to countries where they face a serious risk of persecution or torture. The African Refugee Convention calls on member states to use their “best endeavors” to receive refugees and provide them asylum.

Egypt is also a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which, under article 13, prohibits arbitrary expulsion and entitles foreigners to an individual decision on their removal/expulsion. The UN Human Rights Committee has interpreted article 7 of the ICCPR to forbid refoulement – or forced return – of people to places where they would be at risk of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Egypt is bound to apply the ICCPR to anyone in its territory.

On January 13, Cairo airport officials deported two other Syrian men, ages 20 and 22, to Damascus on January 13. The two had landed in Egypt on December 12 from Syria with valid passports. When they attempted to travel to France13 days later, airport immigration officials detained them on the grounds that their visas to France were forged, credible community sources told Human Rights Watch.

In the week of December 13, immigration officials transferred 13 Syrians who had been in detention in Qanater prison after their arrest in Salloum to Cairo airport for deportation. Airport security officials released 6 of them on January 16 after their lawyer intervened, and the other 7 remained in the airport for another day. They were released after UNHCR intervened. It is unclear what prompted this attempted deportation, and what stopped it.

Egypt has provided protection for more than 13,000 refugees from Syria, a positive development, Human Rights Watch said.  And most refugees have been able to enter at the Cairo airport without difficulty.  But the two cases of refoulement raise concerns that, going forward, airport officials might use improper documents as grounds to deport to Syria, Human Rights Watch said.

Egypt is party to the 1951 Refugee Convention but has turned over responsibility for determining refugee status to UNHCR. Interior Ministry immigration officials have in the past ordered deportations that amount to refoulement, most notoriously in 2008 with the deportation of 1,200 Eritreans. But until the past two months Egypt had not attempted refoulement of Syrians.

Interior Ministry deportation orders may be challenged before Egypt’s administrative courts. In 2010, an Egyptian administrative court ordered immigration officials to halt an attempted deportation of two recognized Sudanese refugees on the grounds that their deportation would violate Egypt’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and the ICCPR.

“At a time of great conflict and tragedy in Syria, we call on Egypt and all countries not to return any residents of Syria, including Palestinians, to Syria,” Frelick said.

Angry protesters confront man who looks like Morsi

Egypt Independent

Angry protesters confront man who looks like Morsy

Wed. January 13, 2013

Protesters at the presidential palace in Heliopolis surrounded and attempted to beat a man Tuesday whom they suspected of being President Mohamed Morsy.

Astonished protesters flocked around Gamal Sayed, 56, whose visage reportedly bore an uncanny resemblance to the president's. Thinking they were confronting the president himself, protesters demanded his National Identity Card, while others attempted to pull him into a tent and beat him up.

Eventually, other protesters intervened, explaining that the president's doppelganger was in fact an ordinary citizen who was attempting to file a complaint with the presidential ombudsman.

After the man's true identity was revealed, the mood lightened, with protesters asking Sayed to pose for photos with them in front of the palace. Sayed happily agreed, at one point opening his jacket to mimic a famous photo shot of Morsy in Tahrir as he was demonstrating to supporters that he was not wearing a bulletproof vest.

Passers-by also began streaming over after protesters told them they could take a photo with the "president" for LE1, while policemen arrived at the site after hearing protesters say that they had "arrested the president."

“I did not think I resembled the president to that extent that the people would think I was him,” said Sayed, adding that he was frightened when the protesters yelled “Morsy!” at him.

Asked why he came to the palace, Sayed said, “My right eye is completely blind and one of my legs is handicapped. I am 56 and have no source of income. I came here to ask for a kiosk anywhere, a bicycle cart or a pension.”

*Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

Egypt police send pigeon to criminal investigation

Al Arabiya News

‘Stop the pigeon’: Egypt police sends bird to criminal investigation department

Monday, 14 January, 2013

In an incident that brings back old mailing tools, a pigeon was found Sunday in Egypt’s northeastern city of Qalyubia with a written message tied to one of its feet and a microfilm attached to the other, a local newspaper reported.

The Qalyubia Security Directorate said that a security guard called Saber Ibrahim filed a report (numbered 302) after he found “an injured homing pigeon carrying a message that reads "Islam Egypt" and a microfilm,” reported Ahram Online.

“The pigeon has been sent to the Criminal Investigation Department while the microfilm has been sent to the Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) to be developed,” reported the website.

The pigeon was seized and taken by police, along with the letter and the film, to a criminal laboratory for investigation. No further details were announced until now.

However, the incident prompted some sarcastic responses among Egyptian Twitter users, who associated the letter to President Mohamed Mursi, who has always referred to his Freedom and Justice Party’s Renaissance Project as a bird that would fly Egypt’s obstacles.

Egyptian activist Samira Ibrahim tweeted saying: “Breaking: The Renaissance pigeon is now under custody and is held in Shubra police department.”

*Photo courtesy of AFP