The deputy head of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), Abdel Ghaffar Shokr, formally resigned on Wednesday.
Human rights lawyer and member of the NCHR Mohamed Zare’ also announced his intention to resign.
The resignations follow an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the controversial constitutional declaration issued by President Mohamed Morsy last Thursday. The eight-hour-long meeting resulted in a statement described by Zare’ as a “disappointing compromise.”
According to Zare’ the contradictory and politicised make up of the NCHR held the council back from issuing a more severe statement. At least seven of the 20 members appointed in September are from an Islamist background, including Salafi preacher Safwat Hegazy, who is known for his fanatical opinions. The head of the council, Hossam El-Gheriany, is also seen as an Islamist sympathiser. His deputy Shokr is a senior member in the Social Popular Alliance party. The council also includes human rights lawyers and activists.
“The Islamist members believe that the president has the right to issue a constitutional declaration which is above criticism,” Zare’ said, adding that other members expressed a totally opposite perspective.
The statement satisfied nobody, Zare’ said, “it was merely issued to record a position for the council.”
Zare’ stated that people expect the NCHR to reference international conventions, as a human rights organisation. The politicised make up of the council prevented that from happening and produced a statement that does not meet people’s expectations.
“The members used the emergency meeting to express their highly respectable yet out-of place political perspectives,” Zare’ said, citing the reason for his decision to resign, “such statements can be expressed in parliament. We are here to talk from a rights perspective.”
Zare’ is expected to issue his resignation on Thursday.
Other members were happy with the outcome of the meeting. Seif Al-Islam Hammad, a lawyer, said “I personally approve of the statement.”
Shokr believes that Morsy’s constitutional declaration contravenes international conventions, especially the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and that it threatens the independence of the judiciary and deprives Egyptian citizens of their right to file lawsuits.
“It’s an aggression against human rights,” Shokr said, “yet the NCHR did not take a stance against it.”
The council denounced what Morsy’s “breach of authority” in Article 2 of his declaration, and demanded an explanation. It also stated that Article 6 was “unnecessary.”
Human Rights Watch released a report on Monday condemning Morsy’s decree, especially articles 1, 2, 3 and 6 for breaching the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Egypt has ratified.