Human Rights state councils, associations, and committees are supposed to be an important part of the local comprehensive system of human rights. As most of these bodies are not entirely independent, legally and practically, in a way that does not allow them to deal suitably with human rights violations committed by the state. Nevertheless, such bodies have privileges more than other non-governmental entities working in the same field. Among these privileges: access to information, state institutions’ cooperation, powers that could be granted by law which may enable them to directly interact with violations, lifting harm and compensating victims, in the case with such powers, there is also a will to implement them.
Although Egypt is going through one of its worst episodes in contemporary history when it comes to human rights violations committed by the state in terms of frequency and severity. The scale of these violations expands to be practiced by several state institutions, which were never part in such violations before, or had a small role in them, nevertheless, the creation of state human rights bodies and developing existing ones, is a positive aspect, if not right now, as they only serve the narrow interests of the regime now, but it still gives hope for developing these bodies and their performance in future, in case the current circumstances change at any point. Moreover, it opens the door to dispute with the state aiming at obliging it to conform with basic human rights for its citizens through its institutions. There is a chance to address these bodies and submit complaints, even if it is not effective, it is still a legal path to be trodden to deal with violations.
This paper provides a list of nearly most of the existing state bodies for human rights, offering basic information about each one of them. We are not entitled, in this paper, to analyze the performance or role of any mentioned entity, as it could be undertaken as the subject of more detailed papers. This paper focuses on the definition of each body and a description of its role.
The Human Rights Committee in The Parliament
Under the internal regulations in the parliament, the human rights committee was established as one of its special committees. The regulations determine the formation of the committee and its competence as follows:
The human rights committee in the parliament consists of a president, two deputies, a secretary, and seventeen members. Alaa Abed is the current president, he is an MP from the “Mustakbal Watan” party. One woman works as a deputy, Margret Azer, and the other deputy is Aly Abdul Wanis Al Sawwah, both are independent MPs, the secretary is MP Sherif Al Werdani. Among the members two former generals and a former colonel.
The internal regulations of the parliament state the following mandate & role for the committee:
- Human rights legislation
- Issues related to international law for human rights
- National Council for Human Rights reports submitted, by law, to the parliament and the President of the Republic.
- Complaints submitted by citizens and bodies related to human rights
- Issues and cases related to human rights along with legislations, laws, and details concerning citizens and their rights.
The National Council for Human Rights
The National Council for Human Rights was established under law no. 94 of the year 2003 which states: the national council for human rights is an independent council, for the enhancement, development, and protection of human rights and public freedoms under the constitution articles and in the light of international agreements, covenants, and conventions ratified by Egypt. It also aims at anchoring human rights values, spreading awareness and contributing to guaranteeing their practice”.
The council consists of a president, vice president and twenty-five members chosen among public figures known for their experience and human rights activism. One of the members has to be a professor in constitutional law in one of the Egyptian universities. The council renews its term every four years. No member should be assigned for more than two consecutive terms.
Mandate & role of the Council:
- Giving opinion about draft laws and regulations related to it and its field.
- Studying claims of human rights violations and offering recommendations to the competent state bodies.
- Designing a national plan to enhance and protect human rights in Egypt and suggesting tools to implement the plan.
- Making suggestions and recommendations to the competent bodies to protect, support and develop human rights.
- Giving opinions, suggestions, and recommendations concerning cases referred to it by the state or the authorities related to protecting human rights.
- Receiving complaints related to human rights, studying them and referring them to the competent bodies along with following the updates and informing the victims of necessary legal procedures and helping them with their implementation, or resolving the matter with the competent bodies.
- Following the implementation of international agreements, treaties, and conventions related to human rights and ratified by Egypt. It also should submit suggestions, notes, and recommendations to the concerned bodies.
- Cooperating with international organizations and bodies related to human rights to achieve the council’s goals in coordination with the Foreign Ministry.
- Contributing, with an opinion, in the preparation of periodic reports filed by the state to the international human rights committees under the international agreements, and in responding to the inquiries of these committees.
- Coordinating with international human rights bodies and cooperating with the National Council for Women and National Council for Childhood and Motherhood and National Council for Persons with Disabilities along with other concerned national councils, associations, and bodies.
- Raising awareness of human rights culture among citizens through the aide of institutions and bodies concerned with education, media, and culture. Aiding in preparing human rights education programs.
- Holding conferences, seminars and panel discussions to discuss human rights issues or related events.
- Offering suggestions to develop institutional and technical capabilities including technical training to enhance state officials skills concerning public freedoms and economic, social and cultural rights.
- Issuing publications and magazines related to human rights and the council’s aims and mandates under the law.
- Issuing reports concerning human rights status and developments.
- Visiting prisons, detention places, therapeutic and reforming institutions. Listening to prisoners and inmates of the mentioned institutions to make sure that they enjoy their rights. The council prepares a report concerning each visit, which includes notes and recommendations. The council submits its report to the public prosecutor and the parliament.
- Reporting to the public prosecution any personal freedom, privacy or any other freedoms’ and rights’ violation guaranteed by the constitution, law and international agreements, conventions, and covenants ratified by Egypt.
The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood
Established in 1988 under presidential decree no. 54 1988. According to the MP, Mona Monir, “the council’s role is inactive and does not offer services to mothers and children, particularly because of its submission to the Health Ministry’s authorities and it is not independent as the other councils”. The MP, in a statement she issued, demanded to discuss and ratify a draft law for the council.
The composition and role of the council are determined as follows:
The council consists of a president, a vice president, and some members not less than 7 and not more than 13, appointed by the President of the Republic and the ratification of the parliament for one term of four years which can be renewed for one more term.
Mandate & role of the Council:
- Suggesting general policies concerning motherhood and childhood.
- Designing a comprehensive national draft plan for childhood and motherhood in the light of the state general plan aiming at protecting childhood and motherhood in different fields, particularly, concerning social, family, health, education, cultural and media protection.
- Following and assessing the implementation of general policies and a national plan for childhood and motherhood, monitoring its implementation, and resolving problems that face it in light of reports filed to the council by ministries, bodies, and institutions and offering recommendations to lift obstacles.
- Collecting available information, statistics, and studies in fields related to childhood and motherhood, assessing their indicators and results, and determining beneficial fields.
- Encouraging volunteer work, expanding its scale and base in the field of childhood.
- Cooperating with governmental and non-governmental organizations in the childhood and motherhood field on the national, regional and international levels.
- Giving opinion in draft laws, international and regional agreements and decisions related to the council and its field and working on the implementation after ratification. Following the implementation of aid agreements and grants offered by foreign states and bodies to Egypt in this field.
- Issuing decisions and internal regulations related to financial, administrative and technical facts without being restrained by governmental regulations. Issuing regulations related to workers after consulting the central bank for organizing and administrating and consulting the Ministry of Finance.
- Receiving complaints related to child rights, studying them, referring them to the competent bodies, following up on them and giving an opinion.
- Issuing periodic and non-periodic reports about children’s rights status and efforts to develop it both on governmental and non-governmental levels, and submitting it to the concerned bodies.
- Studying any other subjects related to childhood and referring them to the concerned bodies.
- Reporting to the authorities any violations related to childhood and motherhood.
National Council for Persons of Disabilities
Established by law no. 11 of the year 2019, to replace the National Council for Disabilities which was established by the Prime Minister’s decision no. 410 of the year 2012 which provides for establishing an independent council with a legal entity. It is worth mentioning that a law of establishment was issued no. 10 of the year 2018 related to the disabled’ rights. Its mandate and missions are referred to as the council.
According to the law, the council constitutes a president, vice president, and seventeen members, eight of them are disabled. The decision of forming the council issued by the President of Republic under the parliament majority’s decision.
Mandate & role of the Council:
- Suggesting the state general policies in the developing, rehabilitating and integrating disabled field.
- Coordinating with all ministries and concerned bodies in the state to apply international agreements for disabled rights.
- Offering opinion in draft laws and decisions related to the council and its field.
- Presenting disabled and registering the council’s membership in international conferences and organizations concerned with the disabled.
- Holding conferences, seminars, panel discussions and training workshops to raise awareness about the disabled role in society.
- Working on documenting information, data, statistics, studies, and researches concerned with the disabled.
- Receiving complaints concerning disabled, discussing it and suggesting suitable solutions.
- Adopting policies, strategies, programs and projects to raise social and health awareness to avoid disabilities.
- Issuing decisions and internal regulations concerning financial, administrative and technical facts for the council without being restrained by governmental regulations.
The National Council for Women
Established under law no. 30 of the year 2018, to replace a council with the same title established under law no. 90 of the year 2000. The law in its first article states that “the national council for women is independent, following the president”. The council has a legal personality, technical, financial and administrative independence in practicing its tasks, activities, and competences.
The law states that the council constitutes of a president and 29 members of public figures who have experience and activism in women’s rights and freedoms. It is worth noting that there is no text determining a minimum number of female members (like the case of the national council of persons of disabilities which has to have at least 8 disabled among 19 members). The law states that the members have to be Egyptians with full civil and political rights, who served in the military or legally pardoned from serving in it. There is also a condition that a member in the council should not be, previously, condemned in a felony or misdemeanor that doubts his/her honor and consistency. Other than that, the law states that the president and his/her vice president should serve in the council in the full-time case and to found branches of the council in other governorates with at least ten members.
Mandate & role of the Council:
- Suggesting the state’s general policies concerning empowering women to take part in politics, economy, society, and culture.
- Suggesting national draft plans to empower women and solve their problems.
- Coordinating with governmental bodies to implement programs, activities, and projects to empower women.
- Participating in state committees to plan empowering policies for women.
- Following and evaluating the implementation of the general state policies concerning women and suggesting solutions and notes to the concerned bodies.
- Giving opinion about draft laws and regulations in the field, following ratifications and working on integrating them in the national legislations.
- Giving opinion in international and regional covenants and agreements related to women, following ratifications and working on integrating them in the national legislation. .
- Giving opinion when demanded by concerned ministries in related subjects.
- Presenting Egyptian women in international and regional women conferences in coordination with concerned state bodies.
- Participating in regional and international women organizations’ meetings under the council’s mandates in coordination with the concerned state bodies.
- Participating with opinion in periodic women’s rights reports submitted by the state under the international agreements.
- Receiving and studying complaints related to violations against women’s rights and freedoms and referring it to the concerned bodied along with working on solving it and offering necessary legal aid.
- Reporting authorities with any violations against women’s rights and freedoms.
- Raising awareness of protecting and empowering women through media and press. Forming media programs to raise awareness of women’s role in rural societies.
- Holding conferences, seminars and panel discussions along with preparing researches and studies related to women’s status and organizing training programs to enhance women’s abilities and skills in all fields.
Ministries committees and units
The Human Rights Sector of the Ministry of Interior Affairs
Human Rights Sector of the Ministry of Interior Affairs is a specialized section under the Minister of Interior, Ahmed Gamal Al Din’s decision, no. 2694 issued on 15th November 2012. the sector is directly under the authority of the minister and it includes two administrations: the public administration for social communication and the general administration for human rights.
No detailed information about the formation of this sector. However, it is well known that the sector is headed by a general who is assistant to the minister of interior. Currently, the sector is headed by the general Sherif Galal. Other than that, according to general Hassan Fekry’s statements, first foreign minister’s assistant to head human rights sector, “qualified officers were chosen to work in this section and we have police officers who got a Ph.D. in human rights and they work as professors in Egyptian universities”.
According to the same statement, a sector was created along with human rights and social communication administrations, which is an administration countering violence against women. General Fekry says: “We were keen to include female police officers who are highly qualified, some of them are psychiatrists, some of them are trained to social work. They were all sent to be trained in the USA to be well informed and trained to deal with sex crimes”.
According to statements released by some parliament members, the ministry of interior established units for human rights in all security directorates in the governorates. An officer of human rights was hired in each police department. According to a report published in Masrawy website, in October 2014, “General Ali Demerdash, assistant of the minister of interior for Cairo security, assigned all geographic sectors directors and department wardens to establish human rights units in each department and to hire officers who are trained in this field to head this unit. The report says that a unit in Nozha department, in Cairo, was the first to be launched.
Mandate & Role:
In a report published by Youm Sabei website, which is close to the ministry of interior, journalist Mahmoud Abdul Radi wrote that the section has the following mandates and role:
- Planning for programs to implement human rights in the ministry
- Communicating with citizens, organizations, institutions – legally registered – working in this field.
- Enhancing social communication between the ministry sectors and state institutions and all human rights advocates, media, political, religion, NGO, public figures.
- Fortifying relation between all citizens to activate social role for police institution and its members.
- Holding trainings, conferences, seminars, and workshops for workers in the ministry to anchor human rights culture.
- Coordinating with security bodies to follow the reconciliation committees in all security directorates to contain retaliation disputes.
- Supporting internal social communication between police leaders and workers to enhance loyalty and affiliation.
- Monitoring human rights violations that may take place in police sites to comprehend its reasons and motives and study how to eliminate and redress it. Moreover, to announce results of the examination of the case through media and public relations in the ministry.
- Implement the plan of passing the committees of the sector by all police departments, centers, and sites that offer services to the public, to make sure that police officers and individuals are conforming to the constitution and law by treating citizens well and preserving their dignity.
The Human Rights Unit of the Ministry of Local Development
Human Rights Unit of the Ministry of Local Development was established under the decision of the minister of local development no. 352 of the year 2018, under the supervision of the director of the minister’s office sector.
The Egyptian respond to an inquiry by the High Commissioner of Human Rights concerning the Human Rights Council’s decision no. 39/7 titled “local governance and human rights”, mentioned establishing a unit. The minister’s decision stated to establish a unit in each governorate bureau, and “units of human rights and headquarters and hiring a director of it in 25 governorates and another two units are under construction (Cairo and North Sinai). The response also mentioned the establishment of a general directorate for equal opportunities in the ministry of local development.
Mandate & role:
The unit is concerned with the Ministry’s office and its affiliated units in the governorates, in examining complaints and evaluating all humanitarian services. The unit’s work fields include health, education, children’s rights, women and people with special needs. Each unit in the governorates develops its vision for the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Human Rights Directorate in the Public Prosecutor Office
The administration was established by the decision of the Public Prosecutor, No. 2034 of 2017, issued in Circular 9 for the same year. Which was released in November of 2017 and announced on the next December 21.
The administration is formed according to the decision, headed by a member of the Public Prosecution with the rank of at least a public lawyer, and assisted by a sufficient number of Public Prosecution members.
Mandate and Role:
- Receiving complaints and reports related to human rights violations to be examined and studied. Investigating the important ones, preparing them to be considered and referring the rest to the concerned prosecutions after being examined by the Public Prosecutor.
- Following up cases concerning human rights are investigated and considered in all prosecutions.
To follow-up the implementation of the rules established in the international and regional conventions, treaties and conventions on human rights ratified by Egypt within the competence of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
- Follow up on the implementation of the agreements and memoranda of understanding concluded by Egypt with other countries concerning the proper treatment of deported or expelled Egyptians to ensure respect for their legally-established rights.
5. To follow up and submit to the Public Prosecutor the laws, decisions and judicial decisions relating to human rights to take such action.
6. Conduct research and legal studies on the extent to which national legislation and laws conform to international human rights instruments and resolutions.
7. To coordinate with national human rights bodies in all matters that protect and promote human rights, and to prepare and submit to the Public Prosecutor a response to their inquiries and requests.
8. Attendance at meetings of governmental, scientific and regional human rights bodies.
9. Holding and organizing scientific and special conferences and symposia in the field of human rights.
10. Organizing conferences, symposia and panel discussions for prosecutors and administrative staff on the role and powers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the promotion and protection of human rights in Egypt in coordination with relevant international, regional or national bodies and bodies.
11. To participate in the preparation of reports which the State is obliged to submit periodically to human rights committees and organizations in application of international conventions, and to respond to their inquiries in this regard.
12. To examine the inquiries and information requested by the United Nations and its relevant organizations, the African Commission or the Arab Commission for Human Rights and to prepare their responses for submission to the Public Prosecutor.
13. Representing the Public Prosecutor’s Office at the United Nations treaty committees, conferences, symposia, and international, regional or national human rights commissions and preparing studies for the implementation of their recommendations.
14. Establish a central database that collects data and information on the most important crimes related to human rights violations, those accused and the subsequent investigations and criminal sentences, classifying them according to established scientific principles so that they can be used to promote, protect and improve the human rights conditions of the prosecution.
15. Receive periodic and sudden inspection reports of prisons and other places of detention or arrest received from the procurators, study them and make observations on the extent to which the rules for the treatment of prisoners – whether in custody or execution of sentences – are applied and submitted to the Public Prosecutor.
16. To examine and submit to the Public Prosecutor reports from the National Human Rights Council on visits to prisons, other places of detention and treatment and correctional institutions for the public prosecutor’s consideration.
17. The publication of a biannual magazine in Arabic and English, which includes the achievements of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the promotion and protection of human rights and other related subjects.
18. Other acts ordered by the Public Prosecutor.
The Permanent High Commission for Human Rights
The Committee was established by Prime Minister’s Decree No. 2396 of 2018 under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, which incorporated the Main Committee of the General Department of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice, established by Minister of Justice Decree No. 6445 of 2003, amended by Decree No. 2645 of 2016. The National Committee on the periodic Review Mechanism before the United Nations Human Rights Council, established by Prime Minister’s Decree No. 37 of 2015, amended by resolution 884 of 2017.
The Committee is chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or his delegate and includes representatives from Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Social Solidarity, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of the House of Representatives Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, General Intelligence Service, Administrative Control Authority, National Council for Women, National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, National Council for Persons of Disabilities, General Authority for Information, Public Prosecutor’s Office.\
Mandates & Role
Under the text of the resolution establishing the Committee, it has the following terms of reference:
- Development of a national human rights strategy and action plans for implementation and follow-up by the concerned.
2. Follow-up to Egypt’s implementation of its international obligations arising from the provisions of the relevant international conventions and protocols.
3. Monitoring, studying and addressing the human rights problems in Egypt raised at the international level, prepare responses to allegations raised and communicate with the concerned authorities for circulation and dissemination.
4. Preparing Egypt’s file, which is presented in the comprehensive periodic review mechanism before the UN Human Rights Council, following up the implementation of the recommendations accepted by Egypt within the framework of the periodic review and suggesting the necessary solutions for its implementation.
5. Development of policies, programs and plans to raise awareness and capacity-building in the field of human rights.
6. Preparation of a central database in coordination with national research centers and specialized national councils to collect information, data, and experience related to their area of operation.
7. To strengthen cooperation with the United Nations, its specialized agencies, other States and relevant intergovernmental organizations to obtain the technical and financial support available to assist the Egyptian Government in the area of institutional building, capacity-building and training in the field of human rights.
8. To cooperate with international and regional bodies and counterparts to exchange experiences between them under the rules contained in the protocols of cooperation signed with them.
9. Preparation of an annual report on national efforts in all areas relevant to the promotion of human rights.
10. To propose laws and legislative amendments relating to the area of support for and promotion of human rights.
The General Department of Human Rights Affairs, Ministry of Justice
Established in the Office of the General Secretary of the Ministry of Justice by decision No. 3018 of 2002, and it is attached to the Office of the Minister.
The administration is supervised by a judicial officer with the rank of chief of appeal or its equivalent, selected by the Minister of Justice, with the support of a sufficient number of administrative professional members and composed of the following subdepartments:
- Information and statistics administration.
- Follow-up and research administration.
- Conference and training administration.
- Administration of international relations.
Mandates & Role:
1. Preparing a database and information on all the Egyptian human rights instruments, decisions, recommendations, international and regional efforts, laws, decisions, and judicial decisions.
2. Representation of the Ministry with human rights committees in governmental, scientific and regional bodies.
3. Participation and preparation of legal aspects relating to Egypt’s periodic reports to the UN Treaty Committees and the regional human rights commissions.
4. Conduct research and legal studies on the extent to which national legislation and laws conform to international human rights instruments and resolutions.
5. To express an opinion on the legislation concerning human rights.
6. Follow up on laws, resolutions and judicial decisions relating to human rights.
7. Preparation of legal responses and reports on inquiries and information requested by the United Nations, the African Commission or the Arab Commission on Human Rights, and their relevant organs.
8. Representing the Ministry with United Nations treaty committees, conferences, symposia, and international, regional or national human rights committees, and preparing studies to implement their recommendations.
9. Holding and organizing scientific and special conferences and symposia in the field of human rights.
10. Holding and organizing courses for the judiciary and administrative staff, in coordination with the relevant international, regional or national bodies and organs.
11. Collection of data and statistics on human rights areas issued by specialized government bodies.
12. Related assigned actions.
The Human Rights Unit of the State Information Service – SIS
Established by the Board’s Chairman for Information Diaa Rashwan in October 2018. Its headquarters is located in the General Council of the SIS in Nasr City.
The Unit is composed of human rights experts, researchers, and translators.
Mandates and Role:
- Providing advice to the Chairman of the Commission on human rights issues and cases.
2. A monthly magazine entitled “Human Rights situation in Egypt – International organizations and Media”, which monitors and analyzes what is published by foreign and Arab human rights organizations and mass media on the human rights file in Egypt.
3. To examine all issues, reports, and data published by international non-governmental human rights organizations, the media, and the foreign press accurately, to ensure that their information is correct, and to respond to any allegations that are incorrect or lack accuracy professionally and carefully considered by the Western reader.
4. Periodically issue information and explanatory reports on human rights issues in Egypt in coordination with the competent official authorities, thus contributing to the provision of an authoritative reference supported by documentary information to counter systematic distortions campaigns by some international human rights bodies.
5. Play an advocacy role to publicize human rights concepts in their comprehensive sense and to highlight the successes achieved by the State in the promotion and protection of human rights.
Human rights and international social and humanitarian issues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
This sector is headed by an assistant minister of foreign affairs (with an ambassador degree), and currently, the position is occupied by Ambassador Ahmed Ehab Abdel-Sunday Jamal Al-Din. The Ministerial decision establishing the sector, or its official terms of reference, was not reached while the Prime Minister’s decision No. 2396 of 2018, establishing the Supreme Standing Committee on Human Rights, chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, provides in article 6 that the sector will act as the substantive secretariat of the Commission.
This paper tried to be as comprehensive as possible to list according to the information available all national councils, governmental bodies, departments and committees concerned with human rights in Egypt. As noted above, there is little room here to attempt to analyze and assess the actual role of all these entities. Although it can be said that through its statements and its publication of news and statements by its officials, the greatest concern of these entities is first and foremost to reflect a false image of the ruling regime in Egypt that portrays it as if it conforms with human rights and committed to its international covenants and conventions. Secondly, to contradict the reports issued by national and international organizations, including those of the United Nations, on the continuous and systematic violations of human rights in Egypt by repeating denial, using unfounded and irrational accusations of being agents and spies who receive money and participate in a universal conspiracy against (Egypt), its security and stability.
In this conclusion, it is important to reiterate the positive fact about the existence and increase of such entities, regardless of their current role in all its shortcomings, that there is always an opportunity to make limited use of them in the short term and to hope that a real, truly human rights-supporting role will be played in a future in which life on this earth is different.