Egypt makes progress on human rights but challenges remain, UN team finds

8 April 2011
Egyptians protesting in Cairo.

Egypt has made progress on human rights since the revolution that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, a United Nations team reported, while noting a number of challenges that need to be tackled such as combating impunity and ensuring an inclusive dialogue during the transition period.

The five-member delegation from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that visited Egypt from 27 March to 4 April also encouraged the current leadership to translate the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people for change into concrete democratic reforms.

It also called for combating abuses and impunity, noting that “the credibility of reform for any society in transition depends on the way past as well as current human rights violations are addressed,” according to a news release issued today in Cairo.

The popular uprising that ousted Mr. Mubarak in mid-February was part of a wave of pro-democracy protests that also brought down the leader of Tunisia and has spread across much of North Africa and the Middle East.

Last month OHCHR sent teams to Egypt and Tunisia to meet with senior officials, civil society groups and others and to help map out its role in the wake of the dramatic changes in both countries.

The team was encouraged by the commitments expressed by Egyptian Government officials to ratify several human rights treaties and to increased engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, including the independent experts known as special rapporteurs.

Members welcomed the registration of political parties and new independent trade unions, and the ongoing investigations of human rights violations and announcements of indictments in cases of corruption, among other elements.

At the same time, they stated that authorities must remain vigilant and ensure full respect for human rights if Egyptians are to trust the State and its institutions.

The also noted with concern reports of continuing arbitrary arrests and detentions, and allegations of torture and ill-treatment, as well as attempts to place restrictions on freedoms of expression and assembly.

“These alleged human rights violations must be speedily investigated and addressed, and a major effort is needed to ensure they do not re-occur,” said the delegation.

It also highlighted the importance of ensuring the broadest possible dialogue during the transitional period, as well as the implementation of a system to ensure that the elections to be held later this year are free and fair.


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