Supreme Admin Court to Consider Interior Ministry's Appeal against Baha'is on Saturday

Press Release

29 November 2006

On Saturday, 2 December 2006, the First Circuit of the Supreme Administrative Court will consider the merits of the Interior Ministry's appeal against a lower court decision that found Egyptian Baha'is had the right to obtain birth certificates, identity cards and other official documents that recognized their faith.

The Supreme Court's Appeal Inspection Chamber started considering the seriousness and admissibility criteria of the appeal last May. On 15 May, the Chamber accepted the Interior Ministry's request to suspend the implementation of the lower court decision pending consideration of the appeal. The appeal was referred to the First Circuit on 20 November after receiving the mandatory advisory opinion of the State Commissioners Authority that recommended ruling in favor of the Interior Ministry.

In a 4 April 2006 ruling the Administrative Justice Court had found in favor of two Baha'i parents who wanted birth certificates for their three daughters after the Interior Ministry had confiscated them for discovering they recognized the daughters and their parents as followers of the Baha'i faith. The ruling was founded on the premise that Islamic Shari'a prohibited discrimination against non-Muslims; that recognizing the Baha'i faith in official records did not mean an official endorsement of its tenets; and that it was in the state's interest to recognize the true religious affiliation of citizens in order to identity the rights, duties and laws applicable to them.

It is worth noting that the current lawsuit does not deal with the legal recognition of the Baha'i community or the veracity of its faith. The question before the Supreme Administrative Court is whether or not Egyptian Baha'i citizens have the right to obtain official identification documents that listed their religious affiliation, left the 'religion' line blank or inserted the word 'others' instead of the three officially recognized religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These three options were available for Egypt's Baha'i citizens for decades before the Interior Ministry's Civil Status Department decided in the last four years to force them to follow one of the three recognized religions only.

The Court hearing should start at 10 a.m. and be open to the public and the media in Maglis El-Dawla in Dokki