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EOHR condemns committee?s decisions against Egypt?s Labor Party and its Newspaper

(EOHR/IFEX) - The following is an EOHR press release:

EOHR Condemns Arbitrary Measures Against the Labor Party and its Newspaper

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses its strong condemnation of the sudden decision taken on 20 May 2000 by the Political Parties Committee (the state body responsible for authorizing the formation of political parties in Egypt) to freeze the activities of the Labor Party and suspend its newspaper (Al-Sha´b). The Committee referred to Article 17 of the political parties law, which enables the authorities to suspend the activities of any party, including the publishing of its newspaper, as a means of stopping any decision or act by a party that is contrary to the higher interests of the country. The Political Parties Committee is an administrative body established under Article 8 of the Political Parties Law. It is, in practice, affiliated to the government, since it comprises the head and members of the Shura Council (the upper chamber of the parliament) and the ministers of justice and the interior and the state minister for People’s Assembly and Shura Council affairs. In addition, it comprises three heads of judicial institutions who must not belong to any political party.

This decision comes directly in the wake of a press campaign by Al-Sha´b condemning the novel, A Banquet for Seaweed, by Syrian writer Haydar Haydar. The Labor Party paper accused the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, which published the novel, of blasphemy (al-kafr), leading to heated demonstrations by Azhar University students.

Other related events include the split within the party ranks, with one group led by Mr. Hamdi Ahmad, a member of the party’s executive committee, and the other led by Mr. Ahmad Idris. The Committee, in its decision, referred to the official complaint brought by the aforementioned individuals concerning the selection of a new party chair. The two party members also asked for Al-Sha´b to be suspended from publication and a freeze to be put on the party’s bank account. Labor Party Chair Ibrahim Shukri described these demands as illegal.

The EOHR believes that the Committee decision to freeze the Labor Party represents a gross infringement of party life and democracy in Egypt. In addition, the EOHR considers that the suspension of Al-Sha´b represents a clear violation of the freedom of opinion and expression as guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by Egypt. The EOHR renews its complete opposition to control by the executive powers, through the Political Parties Committee, over party life, whether that control takes the form of preventing the formation of new political parties or suspending the activities of existing political parties.

1. The EOHR condemns the Committee’s decision and calls for an end to administrative interference in political party affairs. It is the responsibility of the judiciary to investigate any contraventions of the law.

2. The EOHR calls on all sides, both the government and political parties to refrain from violating rights and freedoms, which only weakens the ability of Egypt to face future economic and social challenges.

3. Finally, the EOHR calls on the Journalists’ Syndicate to provide social protection for Al-Sha´b journalists who are now unemployed.

For further information, contact EOHR, 8/10 Mathaf El-Manyal St., 10th fl, Manyal El-Roda, Cairo, Egypt, tel: +20 2 363 6811/362 0467, fax: +20 2 362 1613, e-mail: [email protected] or [email protected], Internet:

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