UN rights chief urges Egypt president to reconsider decree expanding powers

[JURIST] A spokesperson for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] said Friday that Pillay has sent a letter to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi [BBC profile] urging him to reconsider [press release] a recent decree expanding presidential powers. Pillay worries that the Constitutional Declaration, while a welcome effort towards reaching out to the judiciary and political parties, has the potential to allow violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text] and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights [text], which Egypt ratified in 1981. Pillay stated:

The three slogans of the Egyptian Revolution, were liberty, freedom and social justice. These same principles underlie all international human rights law, including both Covenants. In order for them to be achieved, there need to be prompt, effective and impartial investigations, truth-seeking processes, judicial accountability mechanisms, and reparation programmes, as well as a strengthening of institutional reform and guaranteeing of non-recurrence of the violations that were rampant during the Mubarak era.
There are additional concerns that the Constitutional Assembly did not adequately represent a full political and cultural spectrum, and that actions such as adopting a Constitution might cause further tension.

Egypt has undergone some political turmoil since its revolution [JURIST feature]. Earlier this week Egyptian courts suspended work to protest the decree [JURIST reports] issued by Morsi last week which removed judicial review of his actions and vastly expanded his power. Morsi agreed to meet with the judges [JURIST report] earlier this week to discuss the decree. In October Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Egypt to amend its proposed constitution [JURIST report] to comply with international treaties. In August a lawyer in Egypt filed an appeal challenging a declaration by Morsi granting himself complete legislative and executive power [JURIST reports]. In July, a few days after he was sworn in, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST reports] calling the Egyptian parliament back into session, despite a previous ruling by the country's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolving parliament after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. The court suspended Morsi's decree two days later, after which Morsi vowed that he would respect the ruling [JURIST reports]. Days before its dissolution, the Egyptian parliament elected a new constitutional council after lawmakers finally reached an agreement [JURIST reports] on the political composition of the council. In April the country's Administrative Court temporarily suspended [JURIST report] the work of the Egyptian Constituent Assembly after ruling in favor of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the formation of the panel.

 

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