NGOs Refuse to Meet with Governing Authorities

Press Release

10 November 2011

Egyptian rights groups: We refuse to attend meetings designed to improve the image of the repressive military council and its complicit government.

The undersigned human rights organizations refuse to participate in the meeting called today by Dr. Ali Salmi, Deputy Prime Minister for Political Development and Democratic Transition, in order to discuss criteria for selecting a Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution. We refuse to attend any other meetings of this kind until the government of Dr. Essam Sharaf and the military council prove their respect for the dignity and rights of the Egyptian people. Under this government and military council, thousands have been subjected to unjust military trials, and torture has increased whilst perpetrators go unpunished. Smear campaigns have targeted the very civil society organizations which helped uncover and address the crimes of the former dictator Hosni Mubarak – apparently in revenge for their concern for the dignity and rights of the Egyptian people.

From the moment Mubarak was overthrown, these groups have welcomed opportunities to cooperate and dialogue with the Egyptian government, which promised to defend the gains of the Revolution and to build a new democratic Egyptian state based on justice and the rule of law. Yet the Egyptian government, and the military council which is de facto running the country, have turned their backs on the Egyptian people's demands for a just state. They have launched a systematic campaign against those who defend democracy. Thousands of Egyptians face more crude violations by the military police, whether it be torture or military trials which lack even the basic elements of justice and fairness. The military establishment has committed even worse violations than those which took place under Mubarak – the so-called 'virginity tests' inflicted upon women and girls.

In spite of all the military council's promises to investigate these practices which run counter to the values of the Revolution and to human rights, we have not yet seen any announcement of the results of these investigations, if they were even conducted in the first place. Several months ago, the Egyptian government began defaming and discrediting civil society organizations. Those ministers most actively involved are those closest to the Mubarak regime, most of them not above reproach themselves.

All this is in the light of ongoing formal discussions whose results have never been announced; whatever happens in them is apparently forgotten or disregarded before people leave the meeting room. They can only be considered attempts to fool the Egyptian people into thinking that the government and the military council is engaging with and listening to the views of writers, political representatives, and figures in civil society. These are used to give a veneer of legitimacy to their practices, most of which are contrary to what has been reached in these meetings.

The undersigned human rights organizations say: 'We established our credibility with the Egyptian people through years of hard work resisting the dictatorship and addressing practices which violated human rights. Regardless of the military council and government's position towards us, we will not participate in discussions which, ten months after the fall of Mubarak, begin to look less and less serious. It is out of question to discuss a constituent assembly to draft the constitution with the government and military council. Their prisons are packed with hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens. Their people have paid the price for a society which respects the rights and dignity of humans with the blood of their children. And members of this government and council continue to evade punishment for their crimes, falsehoods, and incitement against the Egyptian people.'

Signatory Organizations:
Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence.
Hisham Mubarak Law Center.
Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.