Court Decisions on Baha'i Egyptians Postponed to 30 October

Press Release

5 September 2007

The Court of Administrative Justice in Cairo decided yesterday to postpone to 30 October its decisions on two lawsuits addressing the rights of Baha'i Egyptians to basic identity documents and education.

The first lawsuit (no. 18354/58) involves the 14-year-old twins Imad and Nancy Rauf Hindi who remain unable to obtain the new computer-generated birth certificates unless they convert to Islam or Christianity. The father of the two children had obtained birth certificates for them when they were first born in 1993 recognizing their Baha'i religious affiliation, but new certificates carrying the national number ( raqam qawmi) are mandatory and Baha'i children are unable to enroll in public schools without them.

In December 2006, the Supreme Administrative Court considered a similar lawsuit and found that the state had the right to deny Baha'i Egyptians identity documents recognizing their Baha'i religious affiliation. Accordingly, last January the lawyers of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) modified the requested remedies in the Hindi case so that the issue currently before the Court of Administrative Justice is whether Baha'i Egyptians have a right to obtain documents without any religious affiliation and without being forced to falsely identify as Muslim or Christian.

The second lawsuit (no. 12780/61) was filed by the EIPR last February on behalf of Hosni Hussein Abdel-Massih, born in 1989, who was suspended from the Suez Canal University's Higher Institute of Social Work due to his inability to obtain an identity card recognizing his Baha'i faith. Baha'i students in post-secondary education often face suspension or expulsion because of their failure to obtain ID cards or military service postponement papers.

The Egyptian government has a legal obligation to protect citizens from religious discrimination and coercion under the Constitution as well as international and regional treaties it ratified, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights. The government is also obliged to protect the right to education without distinction on any basis, including religion or belief, under the African Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.