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By Godfrey Olukya 8-5-2013

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has urged the Egyptian Government to take steps to ensure that the current version of a draft law on civil society organizations is laid open to careful examination by Egyptian and international human rights experts, and, based on their advice, is brought into line with international standards, before it is adopted by the Shura Council.

Pillay said in a statement she issued recently, ‘If a law is passed that severely constrains the activities of civil society organizations, whose constructive contributions will be crucial to the country’s future direction as an inclusive democracy, it will mark a further blow to the hopes and aspirations that were raised during the 2011 ‘Egyptian Revolution.’

She added on that this is a critical moment, with mounting concerns about a range of issues. ‘These include the new Constitution and the manner in which it was adopted, the apparent efforts to limit the authority of the judiciary, and this current draft law which risks placing civil society under the thumb of security ministries which have a history of abusing human rights and an interest in minimizing scrutiny. she said.

She noted that the new constitution risks giving the executive excessive power over the judiciary by providing for the direct appointment of judges to the Supreme Constitutional Court by the President.

‘This concentration of power risks undermining the independence of the judiciary, ‘she said.

Pillay said her Office has been following recent developments closely, including legal action targeting protesters, journalists and other activists, including the prominent political satirist, Bassem Youssef.

‘At the same time as these proceedings are underway, people including members of the security forces responsible for very serious human rights abuses, such as the killing, torture, rape and other forms of sexual attacks on protesters, and ill-treatment of detainees, have in many cases not been properly investigated by the General Prosecutors, let alone brought to justice, ‘she said.

She said her Office had submitted detailed comments and proposals regarding the draft law on civil society.’Tolerance of criticism, debate, and external monitoring of abuses and failings of the country’s laws and institutions are essential to a
properly functioning democracy,” she said.

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