U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Egypt
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Egypt, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7a0.html [accessed 20 October 2014]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
EGYPTAccording to its Constitution, Egypt is a social democracy in which Islam is the state religion. However, the National Democratic Party (NDP), which has governed since its establishment in 1978, has used its entrenched position to dominate national politics, and it maintains an overriding majority in the popularly elected People's Assembly and the partially elected Shura (Consultative) Council. President Hosni Mubarak was reelected unopposed to a third 6-year term by the People's Assembly in 1993. The Cabinet and the country's 26 governors are appointed by the President and may be dismissed by him at his discretion. The judiciary is independent. There are several security services in the Ministry of Interior, two of which are primarily involved in combating terrorism: The State Security Investigations Sector (SSIS), which conducts investigations and interrogates detainees; and the Central Security Force (CSF), which enforces curfews and bans on public demonstrations, and conducts paramilitary operations against terrorists. The use of violence by security forces in the campaign against suspected terrorists appeared more limited than in 1996. The security forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses. Egypt is in transition from a government-controlled economy to a free market system. The Government continued its privatization program, although key sectors of the economy remain under government control. Agriculture remains the largest employer and is almost entirely in private hands. The tourism sector generated the largest amount of foreign currency, although earnings fell off sharply after terrorists massacred 58 foreign tourists in Luxor in November. Petroleum exports and remittances from approximately 2 million Egyptians working abroad are the two other principal sources of foreign currency. In the past 7 years, the Government has enacted significant economic reforms, which have reduced the budget deficit, stabilized the exchange rate, reduced inflation and interest rates significantly, and built up substantial reserves. The success of the reform efforts has resulted in an increase in annual economic growth rates to 5 percent for fiscal year 1996-97. The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is about $1,000 per year. Official statistics place 34.4 percent of wage earners in the agricultural sector, and knowledgeable observers estimate that perhaps 3 to 5 percent of those engage in subsistence farming. The annual population increase is 2.1 percent. Adult literacy rates are 63 percent for males and 34 percent for females. The Government continued to commit numerous serious human rights abuses, although its record improved somewhat over the previous year. The ruling NDP dominates the political scene to such an extent that citizens do not have a meaningful ability to change their government. The Emergency Law, which has been in effect since 1981, was renewed on February 23 for another 3 years and continues to restrict many basic rights. The security forces and terrorist groups continued to engage in violent exchanges. In fighting the terrorists, the security forces continued to mistreat and torture prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, hold detainees in prolonged pretrial detention, and occasionally engage in mass arrests. In actions unrelated to the antiterrorist campaign, local police abused criminal suspects. Prison conditions are poor. During the year, the Government arrested and detained hundreds of individuals for opposition to the implementation of the Agrarian Reform Law, which ended artificially low rents for farmland. The activities that provoked government action ranged from possession of documents about the Agrarian Reform Law to attacks on government-owned property. In civil unrest related to the implementation of the new law, an estimated 28 persons were killed in ensuing clashes. The Government took disciplinary action against police officers accused of abusing detainees, but it did not pursue most cases or seek adequate punishments. The use of military courts to try civilians continued to infringe on a defendant's right to a fair trial before an independent judiciary. The Government used the Emergency Law to infringe on citizens' privacy rights. Although citizens generally express themselves freely, the Government continued to place some restrictions on freedom of the press. State prosecutors brought libel charges in civilian courts against several journalists for criticizing corruption and abuse of authority among government officials and their families. The Government restricts freedom of assembly and association. Although the Government does not legally recognize local human rights groups, these groups are allowed to operate openly. The Government places limits on the freedom of religion. Women and Christians face discrimination based on tradition and some aspects of the law. Violence against women is a problem. Terrorist violence against Christians is a problem. The Child Labor Law approved in 1996 increased protections for children, but child labor remains widespread despite the Government's efforts to eradicate it. Abuse by employers continues, and the Government does not enforce the law effectively. The 1996 government decree banning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was challenged in the courts on the grounds that the ban was unconstitutional. The Government ban was upheld by the Supreme Administrative Court on December 28. The Government limits worker rights. Terrorist groups committed numerous serious abuses. Terrorist groups seeking to overthrow the Government and establish a purportedly Islamic state continued their attacks on police, Coptic Christians, and tourists. Terrorist groups were responsible for the majority of the 155 civilian and police deaths. Major actions included a terrorist attack in February on youths who were attending a church meeting in Abu Qurqas in upper (southern) Egypt; 13 persons were killed and 5 wounded. In March terrorists attacked a village in upper Egypt, and fired on a passing train, killing 14 persons and wounding 21 others. In September a politically-motivated gunman killed 9 tourists and 1 Egyptian in Cairo. In October terrorists killed 11 police and security officials, binding their hands and feet prior to shooting them. In November 6 terrorists attacked foreign tourists at Hatshepsut's temple in Luxor, killing 58 tourists, 2 police, and 2 Egyptian civilians before being killed themselves when surrounded by police.