[The following statement was issued by human rights groups on the official website of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies on 3 July 2013]
The undersigned organizations declare their profound respect for the overwhelming uprising of the Egyptian people, who on 30 June set out to boldly challenge the political despotism, which had now taken on a religious guise, in the same way they challenged Mubarak’s regime and his police state. This uprising is tantamount to a genuine popular referendum by which the majority of Egyptians has rejected all policies seeking to undermine rights and liberties in the name of empowering a single political faction to monopolize state institutions, or which undermine the rule of law and judicial bodies, disregard court orders, harass and prosecute political opponents, and restrict the media and freedom of opinion and expression. Moreover, Egyptians have overwhelmingly rejected the idea that any one party can impose its control over their identity and way of life in the name of religion.
In this context, the undersigned rights groups express their concern and assert that they are closely following the current political developments, which threaten to disrupt the civil peace after the policies of the presidency, the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), and their Islamist allies over the past year have blocked all channels for dialogue and wasted opportunities to foster national consensus, inflamed political and ideological polarization, stigmatized opponents of their political project as infidels, and made them targets for violence. Despite the successive calls for violence, the executive—including, first and foremost, the president—has failed to take measures to put an end to the bloody events that have led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries over the past week.
The undersigned organizations also condemn the violence to which some of those involved in this peaceful uprising have resorted, including attacks against supporters of Dr. Mohamed Morsi and on offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood and its political party. At the same time, we recognize that these criminal acts would not have occurred absent public incitement by the MB and their allies to suppress their political opponents and were it not for the utter lack of accountability for acts of violence, torture, and murder committed by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The undersigned organizations affirm that authorities’ continued pursuit of the policy of impunity established by the Mubarak regime is the prime motivator of the current uprising.
The undersigned organizations also condemn the acts of violence and public incitement undertaken by the MB and its supporters against their opponents. We demand that equal standards of justice be applied against all perpetrators of violence regardless of their identity or political affiliations.
The obstinate refusal of the presidency, the MB, and their partisans to respond to the demands of the Egyptian people poses a grave threat to the civil peace. We stress that security forces, including the armed forces, have a legal duty to protect unarmed demonstrators and to deal decisively with any person who attacks any demonstration or sit-in, whether by government opponents or supporters.
The undersigned organizations note that any roadmap reached in discussions must first of all guarantee civil liberties, particularly the freedom to form trade unions and civic associations and freedoms of the press and publication. Secondly, any roadmap must take immediate measures to guarantee fair but real accountability for the perpetrators of crimes committed against Egyptians since 25 January 2011.
As such, the undersigned organizations welcome the armed forces’ stance rejecting a military coup. They assert than such a stance should also ensure that the military refrain from taking any action on behalf of the people, even if such action were to be taken in the name of achieving the goals of this new uprising, including liberating the people from the new autocratic regime which has come to power under a religious guise. This must be carried out by the civilian forces which called for the uprising and by the people who responded to this call.
The role of the police and the armed forces in this context must be to provide protection to all parties – as long as they remained peaceful – rather than to achieve the goals of any party on their own, no matter how noble these goals. The armed forces are meant to take control in times of war, yet in political matters the army must follow the people, rather than lead them. This is how the army has conducted itself in recent weeks and how it should continue to act.
Egyptian rights organizations therefore urge that the following measures be taken immediately:
1. The current constitution must be amended. The task of revising the constitution should be delegated to a committee of constitutional and legal scholars and independent human rights experts in order to reach a new constitution that enjoys the approval of Egyptians, establishes the foundations of a democratic, civil state, entrenches state impartiality and equality for all citizens regardless of religion, belief, race, ethnicity, or gender, guarantees freedom of religion and belief, and criminalizes incitement to religious hatred and sectarian violence.
2. The same committee should be temporarily tasked with conducting a review of existing legislation, particularly laws governing the judiciary, trade union freedoms, civic work, and media and press freedoms, and electoral laws, as well as the Code of Military Justice, in order to put an end to the referral of civilians to military trials.
3. An immediate review the status of detainees and political prisoners should be conducted, and all persons found to have not been involved in acts of criminal violence as defined by law should be released.
Finally, the undersigned organizations call on the Muslim Brotherhood, its Freedom and Justice Party, and allied Islamist factions to show due regard for the civil peace over any narrow political interests and to voluntarily respond to the popular will. They must realize that claims to electoral legitimacy and the will of the voters expressed through the ballot box have been rendered meaningless by the fact that the policies and practices pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood for more than a year have breached all democratic principles and failed to fulfill any of the numerous promises made to voters.
1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
2. Arab Foundation for Civil Society and Human Right Support
3. Arab Penal Reform Organization
4. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
5. Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques
6. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Aid
7. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
8. Habi Center for Environmental Rights
9. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
10. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
11. Land Center for Human Rights
12. New Woman Foundation
13. The Egyptian Association for community Participation Enhancement
14. The Federation of NGOs Against Violence Against Women