There is a growing collapse of the pillars of the rule of law, the constitution, and human rights, according to the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) Director Bahey Eldin Hassan.
Hassan added that it is occurring at an unprecedented rate in the modern history of Egypt. He also noted that taking part in demonstrations in Egypt is considered “more dangerous than mass murder”. Perpetrators of the latter are often acquitted or not held accountable for their crimes as what occurred for Mubarak, his interior minister, and six of his aides, Hassan said.
Why was the decision made to move the CIHRS international and regional headquarters to Tunis after 20 years of working in Egypt?
There is a growing collapse of the pillars of the rule of law, the constitution, and human rights at an unprecedented rate in modern history of Egypt, which is negatively and increasingly affecting the current and future plans of the institute’s programmes. This has already caused major human rights NGO activities to be suspended in Egypt several months ago.
Does this mean that the institute will no longer operate in Egypt in the near future? And why was Tunisia chosen instead?
The institute will continue operating its programmes in Egypt, which includes the education and dissemination of a human rights culture programme, as well as a special programme for the media. And in case the climate hostile to independent human rights groups continues, we will cancel these programmes. The institute is registered in Egypt in accordance with Egyptian law and Egypt is the only country, among Arab and non-Arab ones, where the institute is registered in which human rights organisations face such pressures and threats. The institute has decided to transfer its programmes with a regional character to Tunisia, and in the wake of the Tunisian Revolution, the organisation was legally registered. Soon after the revolution, Tunisia witnessed some of its most important achievements, including the issuance of a democratic law for NGOS consistent with international standards.
What about the NGO law crisis? Was it one of the reasons the institute’s programmes were ended?
I met with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb on 24 July 2014 and handed him a memorandum signed by 23 human rights organisation requesting the withdrawal of the Ministry of Social Solidarity’s draft law on NGOs (announced on 26 June 2014), as well as the withdrawal of the ministry’s warning (published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 18 July 2014) to dissolve what referred to as civil work entities in 45 days. It was requested that the law be postponed until a democratic law is passed by an elected parliament in a manner compatible with the constitution. There is no explanation for this because the government issued a warning informing NGOs that the law would be applied, while publicly announcing that it has prepared an alternative law, in addition to the United Nations informing the government that the law is undemocratic. The government has vowed to change the law, but has yet to do so.
What is your opinion on the current situation in Egypt now?
The mainstream media, security, and political discourse justify systematic infringements on the constitution and law as well as on human rights guarantees, seen as extraordinary measures aimed at protecting the Egyptian state from the fates of Libya, Syria, and Iraq. The reality of the matter is that this logic leads Egypt into the same hole that these three countries fell into by adopting the same practices and same political discourse used by Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, and the two Al-Assads.
What is your opinion about the Protest Law?
I request it be amended to be more consistent with the Egyptian constitution and international standards, with the introduction of recommendations made during the UN Human Rights Universal Periodic Review at the UN headquarters on 5 November 2014. Demonstrating in Egypt is considered more dangerous than mass killing, and the perpetrators are often acquitted or not held accountable, as happened for Mubarak, his Interior Minister and six of his aides, or protestors are imprisoned for periods between 3-15 years, as with what happened with Ahmed Maher and Alaa Abdel Fattah as two of many numerous examples. Human rights organisations that defend the rights of murdered and imprisoned protestors are punished with defamation media campaigns, and prosecution of their employees and threats of shutdown, seizure and sometimes murder.