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Cablegate: Independent Ngo Coalition for Upr Report Splinters

VZCZCXRO8745
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1948/01 2861557
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 131557Z OCT 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3852
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0455
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0310

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001948

SIPDIS

FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA AND IO/RHS
GENEVA FOR CASSAYRE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/13/2029
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM UN EG
SUBJECT: INDEPENDENT NGO COALITION FOR UPR REPORT SPLINTERS

REF: A. CAIRO 1925
B. CAIRO 1850
C. CAIRO 1433
D. CAIRO 814

Classified By: Economic-Political Minister-Counselor
Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. KEY POINTS

-- (C) The coalition of independent NGOs formed to submit a
September report for the February 2010 UN Human Rights
Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) splintered following
disagreements over using legal versus "political" language in
the introduction.

-- (C) The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights' (EOHR)
leak to the press of disagreements over tone while
negotiations were ongoing has created tensions with the
coalition chair, The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

-- (U) A third NGO, Maat, assembled a coalition of 49
organizations to submit another report that highlights
specific cases of human rights violations.

-- (C) The quasi-governmental National Council for Human
Rights (NCHR) submitted a report calling for many of the
advances it has recommended in the past on issues such as the
Emergency Law, combating torture and increasing freedom of
expression. A prominent NCHR member told us he hoped the
February UPR would help create momentum for reform.

2. (S) Comment: The overall substance of the three
independent NGO reports appears to be similar, and a single
report probably would have brought more civil society
coherence and weight to the UPR. EOHR's leak to a newspaper
widely thought to be controlled by Interior Ministry State
Security (SSIS) that it could not agree to the report's tone
indicates that the organization wanted to protect its
equities with SSIS, especially since the disagreement
centered on characterizing Egypt as a "police state." Other
NGOs have expressed concern in previous years that EOHR has
provided too much information to SSIS about private,
sensitive conversations. End comment.

-----------------------------------
Independent NGO Coalition Splinters
-----------------------------------

3. (C) In September, independent NGOs and the
quasi-governmental National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)
submitted reports to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) for
the February 2010 Universal Periodic Review of Egypt's
"fulfillment of its human rights obligations and
commitments." While the Cairo Institute for Human Rights
Studies (CIHRS) originally intended to organize a coalition
of independent NGOs to submit a single, overall report, the
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) publicly broke
from the coalition, and a third NGO, Maat, assembled its own
separate coalition. As the only Egyptian human rights NGO
with an office in Geneva to expressly monitor the UN Human
Rights Council, CIHRS aimed since the early summer to head a
single NGO coalition that would submit an overall report.

4. (C) However, in early September, EOHR Secretary-General
Hafez Abu Seada told the Interior Ministry State Security
(SSIS)-linked daily, "Rose Al Youssef," that he was leaving
the coalition due to disagreements over the report's tone.
In mid-September Abu Seada told us he left the CIHRS
coalition based on disagreements with the report's
introductory language. He objected to language describing
Egypt as a "police state," and favored "objective, legal"
language over "judgmental" characterizations in the text,
such as "immoral MFA practices." He believed that the UN UPR
context necessitated using "the language of international
law."

5. (C) CIHRS Director Bahey Al-Din Hassan told us in early
October that he wanted the report to underline the GOE's lack
of political will to enact human rights reforms. "The
problem is not due to a lack of legislation," he asserted.
Hassan criticized the EOHR and Maat reports as "too
legalistic," and limited by not addressing extra-legal steps
by the Interior Ministry to interfere with NGOs. Hassan said
that while he was trying to close the gap between EOHR's
positions and the rest of the coalition, Abu Seada leaked the
disagreement to the press in "breach" of the coalition's

CAIRO 00001948 002 OF 002


agreement not to air differences publicly.

6. (C) Hassan noted that the coalition will not release its
report publicly until the GOE submits its own report by
November 8. He explained that this decision is aimed at not
allowing the GOE to counter the NGO coalition's points, and
at avoiding further publicity over the "controversy" with
EOHR. Hassan declined to provide us with a copy of the
report, per the coalition's agreement, but noted that it
focuses on torture, restrictions on freedom of expression,
discrimination against religious minorities and SSIS
infringement on civil liberties. Hassan told us that SSIS
had requested a copy of the report October 4, but he had
refused. He expected that SSIS would be able to steal the
report from his e-mail system.

7. (C) Hassan had "low expectations" for the February UPR
session, and predicted that Egypt's allies would help the GOE
deflect most substantive criticism. He wondered whether the
U.S. had agreed to "go easy" on Egypt in the UPR process in
return for GOE cooperation on the UNHRC freedom of expression
resolution in September. We responded that there is no such
agreement.

------------------------
Substance of the Reports
------------------------

8. (U) EOHR's publicly released report criticizes the
Emergency Law and the new draft counterterrorism law (ref A),
which it asserts codifies human rights violations. The
report also takes issue with laws enabling torture,
restricting freedom of assembly, press freedom, and the
establishment of political parties and NGOs. The Maat
coalition report follows a format roughly similar to the
State Department Human Rights Report, citing specific cases
of human rights violations. This report covers many of the
same issues as the EOHR document, but contains an expanded
section on socio-economic rights. The quasi-governmental
NCHR makes many of the recommendations in its May 2009 annual
report (ref D), such as ending the Emergency Law, combating
torture, increasing freedom of expression protections, and
easing up on NGOs. It recognizes some recent achievements,
such as the 2008 Child Law Amendments, and calls for the GOE
to improve economic, social and cultural rights.

-----------
NCHR Report
-----------

9. (C) NCHR member Hossam Badrawi who chaired the UPR report
drafting committee told us in mid-September that "some in the
GOE got very angry over the report." (Note: Per ref B,
Badrawi is also a member of the Shura Council and the
influential National Democratic Party (NDP) policies
committee. End note.) Badrawi downplayed expectations for
GOE action before February, saying he does not expect the
passage of any significant legislation, but he hopes for
positive GOE "statements" on human rights. He praised the
transparent UPR process as positive for the GOE's
"credibility," and hoped that NDP reformers would be able to
take advantage of the UPR session in February to generate
momentum for positive change. He described NCHR's outreach
to 156 NGOs throughout the country to prepare the report.
Separately, MFA Deputy Director for Human Rights Omar Shalaby
told us the MFA found the NCHR report "mostly objective,
largely accurate and non-provocative."
Scobey

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