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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Egypt

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Egypt, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa890.html [accessed 2 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

According to its Constitution, Egypt is a social democracy in which Islam is the state religion. The President is Hosni Mubarak, who was reelected unopposed to a third 6-year term by the People's Assembly in 1993. The President appoints the Cabinet which is responsible to him. His party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), has governed since its establishment in 1978. It commands large majorities in the popularly elected People's Assembly and the Shura (Consultative) Council. One opposition party is represented in the People's Assembly; the others boycotted the previous People's Assembly election in 1990 and are not represented.

There are several security services in the Ministry of Interior, two of which are primarily involved in combating extremist violence: the State Security Investigations Sector (SSIS), which conducts investigations and interrogates detainees; and the Central Security Force (CSF), which enforces curfews, bans on public demonstrations, and conducts paramilitary operations against terrorists.

Egypt is a developing country with a mixed economy dominated by the public sector. Agriculture, an almost entirely private sector, remains the largest single employer. Remittances from approximately 2 million Egyptians working in the Gulf countries are the largest source of foreign currency earnings. In the past 4 years, the Government has enacted significant economic reforms, which have reduced the budget deficit and stabilized the exchange rate, but has made slow progress on other reforms, including privatization.

The Constitution provides for various human rights, including a multiparty political system, regular elections, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, freedom of opinion, and the right to peaceable private assembly. However, the Emergency Law continues to restrict many basic rights.

There continued to be widespread human rights violations in 1994. The security services and terrorist groups remained locked in a cycle of violence. Security forces committed human rights abuses in their campaign against terrorist groups, but frequently victimized noncombatants as well. Under the Emergency Law, abuses included the widespread torture of detainees in security cases, the Government's continued failure to punish those responsible for torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention without trial, and the use of military courts to try suspected terrorists. The Government continued to arrest and harass journalists and lawyers who defended accused Islamists. Terrorists bombed banks, attacked and killed government officials, security forces, Egyptian Christians, and foreign tourists, and were responsible for the majority of civilian deaths in 1994.

The ruling NDP dominates the political scene to such an extent that, as a practical matter, the citizens do not have a meaningful ability to change their government. The Government continues to restrict substantially basic rights of expression and the press. Women and Egyptian Christians face discrimination based on tradition and some aspects of the law.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

In 1994 the state security police were implicated in several extrajudicial killings. In virtually all cases, the Government has not adequately investigated or explained the causes of death. On February 1, police raided a house in Cairo, killing 7 suspected terrorists. The police maintain that a 3-hour shootout began when one of the suspects inside the house opened fire on the approaching police. However, witnesses later told the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) that the shootout lasted a matter of seconds, followed by a pause, and a later burst of gunfire after the police had entered the house. One policeman was wounded in the incident. The mother of one of those killed filed a complaint against the police, alleging that security forces had executed her son. She retracted her complaint after the police detained her for 12 hours.

On February 14, security forces shot dead three alleged extremists in a Cairo neighborhood. According to the Ministry of Interior, the police acted in self-defense after the suspects opened fire on a patrol in an alley. However, witnesses claimed that they observed the police arrest four suspects, place three of them into a police truck, and later heard suspected gunfire from within the truck. Witnesses further claimed that they observed security officers dump three bodies from the truck onto the street and place guns and ammunition purportedly belonging to the dead suspects near the bodies. Local human rights monitors who inspected the scene concluded that the traces of blood on the street were too small to be consistent with the Government's claim that the suspects were shot on the spot in an exchange of fire. No information is available concerning the fourth detainee.

On April 26, officials of the state security police arrested Islamist lawyer Abdel Hareth Madani at his office in Cairo. Madani died in police custody at a hospital early on April 27. The state security police did not inform Madani's family until May 6. The police did not allow Madani's family to view the body, which was transported in a sealed coffin to his village for burial. The Government initially claimed that Madani had died of an asthma attack, despite claims by morgue workers that they observed puncture wounds and bruises on Madani's body while preparing it for burial. In May the Ministry of Justice announced that it would conduct an investigation of Madani's death. At year's end, the results of the ongoing investigation had not been made public. The Minister of Interior has nonetheless publicly denied any police wrongdoing in Madani's death, maintaining that Madani died of natural causes.

Also in April, local human rights monitors claim that Mohammed Abdel Hamid Hassan died in Abu Zabaal prison near Cairo, following beatings by a prison officer. Hassan was serving a 3-year sentence for sale of drugs; his body was allegedly thrown from a fourth-floor window to conceal the cause of death. The Prosecutor General's office investigated the case and charged the officer with Hassan's death. The officer was released on bail, pending further investigation.

In August Fateh al-Bab Abdel Manem died at a police station in the Cairo suburb of Helwan, following his arrest on drug charges. He was detained along with his wife and son. According to human rights monitors, Abdel Manem died after 12 continuous hours of torture, witnessed by his son. The autopsy report indicates cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage and "major wounds to the body." The Prosecutor General's office has stated it will investigate the death but at year's end had not made public its findings.

In 1993 at least 12 persons died from injuries sustained while in police custody, and 2 others died amid charges of inadequate medical treatment. The Government reported that it had referred security officials for prosecution in the cases of the death of Sayyed Hassan Fetouh and Hassan Salah Sayyed. At year's end, the officers had not been brought to trial. The Government continued investigations of possible criminal conduct in the 1993 deaths in police custody of Effat Mohammed Ali Wali, al-Muhamdi Mohammed Mohammed Mursi, Mohammed Gomma Abdel Sayyed, Eissa Taher Soliman, and Amre Mohammed Safwat.

The Government closed the cases of Ahmed Farouk Ahmed Ali, Abdel Sattar Abdalrah Rashwan, Mohammed Abdel Hamid, and Mohammed Ateya Shamardan, ruling that in the cases of Ali, Hamid, and Shamardan, death occurred as the result of preexisting medical disorders. The death of Rashwan was ruled accidental electrocution. The Government claimed it had no records of the arrests of Bahaa el-Din Abdel Raouf Mohammed, Mohammed Hossain Mohammed, or Ahman Abdel Rahman Mohammed, whose relatives claim they were last seen in police custody. The Government's report on these cases left unanswered several questions raised by the relatives of the deceased persons and human rights groups. The Government stated that it will try to resolve the inconsistencies and provide further information.

The press reported that at least 286 people were killed in civil unrest in 1994 compared with 201 in 1993. In antiextremist operations, security forces killed at least 139 suspected extremists, 5 civilian bystanders, and a fellow policeman by friendly fire. The security forces appear to have caused some of these deaths by the excessive use of lethal force.

In April security forces in Assiyut opened fire on a taxi stopped at a police roadblock, killing the driver and three passengers, including a woman. The police maintained that one of the passengers tried to kill an officer at the roadblock. However, local human rights monitors believe that the shooting broke out when a policeman's weapon accidentally misfired, provoking others to open fire on the car.

In October security forces used lethal force in quelling a demonstration in support of a strike by textile workers (see Section 6.a.).

Terrorists killed at least 101 members of the security forces and 40 civilians, including a witness in the trial of persons indicted for the November 1993 assassination attempt on Prime Minister Atef Sedky. In four incidents, extremists attacked foreign tourist groups, killing five tourists and several Egyptian bystanders.

In October a suspected terrorist stabbed Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian novelist, Nobel laureate, and antifundamentalist critic, in the neck with a knife. Mahfouz survived. As they have in recent years, Islamic extremists targeted Egyptian Christians, attacking churches and other properties owned by Copts, and are believed to have murdered at least nine Copts (see Section 5).

Extremist groups took responsibility for the following murders of senior government and police officials: police Brigadier General Raouf Khairat in Cairo on February 10, and the Director of Central Security Forces in Assiyut, General Sherine Ali Fahmi, on February 20.

b. Disappearance

Mansur Kikhya, a former Libyan Foreign Minister under Colonel Qadhafi and a prominent exiled dissident, disappeared from Cairo in December 1993. The Government has been unable to account for Kikhya's disappearance. Some observers, citing Libya's long history of antidissident campaigns, believe that Libyan operatives abducted Kikhya. Kikhya's whereabouts are still unknown.

In December local human rights monitors published a report on disappearances, which claims that 11 people disappeared in 1994 after their arrests. It recounts the unsuccessful efforts by family members and nongovernmental organizations to locate them in the detention system. According to the report, the number of disappearances in 1994 was "unprecedented," compared to three disappearances in 1991 and three in 1993. At year's end, the Government had not yet responded to the report.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

There is convincing evidence that the police and officers of the SSIS systematically practice torture. The law does not adequately protect citizens from physical abuse by security forces. Article 126 of the Penal Code prohibits torture to obtain a confession but is silent on the mistreatment of detainees for other reasons. Punishment for offenders is imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years. A 1-year sentence and a modest fine may be imposed if the injury does not reach the level of bleeding or wounding. However, Article 126 does not address such abuses as blindfolding and prolonged interrogation and handcuffing.

The Minister of Interior stated several times in 1994 that torture does not exist in detention facilities. Instances may occur, he said, but they are isolated and not official government policy. The Minister also stated that the authorities investigate all allegations and punish those responsible. Government officials have accused human rights organizations of focusing on the rights of accused terrorists, while ignoring those of the victims of extremist attacks. Officials argued that international human rights groups exaggerate torture reports and that their reporting does not take into account the extreme nature of the security threat. However, the record indicates that the Government does not adequately investigate torture complaints in cases involving suspected terrorists. Since 1985, there is no evidence that officers implicated in such cases have been prosecuted or punished.

While the Government has investigated torture complaints in criminal cases and punished some offending officers, the punishments do not necessarily relate to the seriousness of the injury. In August the press reported that a senior SSIS officer received 6 months' imprisonment for permanently crippling a suspect during interrogation.

Officers of the SSIS allegedly are responsible for most of the torture used on suspected terrorist detainees. Prisoners report that torture takes place in police stations, SSIS headquarters in Cairo, and the governorates, and at Central Security Force camps. Torture is used to extract information, coerce the victims to end their antigovernment activities, and deter others from such activities. Torture victims are usually taken to a state security office where they are handcuffed, blindfolded, and questioned about their associations, religious beliefs, and political views. Victims have reported the following torture methods: detainees are frequently stripped to their underwear; hung by their wrists with their feet touching the floor or forced to stand for prolonged periods; doused with hot and cold water; beaten; forced to stand outdoors in cold weather; and subjected to electric shocks. Some victims, including female detainees, report they have been raped or threatened with rape; others report that security officers have inserted solid objects, including electric devices, into their anuses. Written records of detainees' whereabouts are not kept while they are in the custody of the state security police, a period which may last 10 days or longer. Records are maintained only after security forces deliver the detainee to a prison. The absence of such a record in the early days of detention invites abuse and effectively blocks the investigation of torture complaints. The security forces also transfer detainees from prisons to other facilities where they are interrogated, tortured, and then returned to prison. No written records are kept on such transfers.

To pressure male fugitives to surrender, security forces have taken into custody their relatives, including minors and female family members. An undetermined number of such detainees have been subjected to physical abuse. According to government sources, the prisons have a 400-percent occupancy rate, resulting in unhealthy living conditions, severe overcrowding, and occasional outbreaks of disease. Many of the country's 31 prisons were constructed during the Ottoman era. Prisoners report cells are poorly ventilated, and food is inadequate in quantity and nutritional value.

Prison officials occasionally levy collective punishment on inmates, suspending visits and delivery of food to inmates by their families. According to official prison sources, in Qanater women's prison, the prison doctor was prosecuted for sexually molesting 12 female prisoners during examinations. Prisoners reported that prison guards beat a number of women in the aftermath of the scandal, and a sweep of the prison facilities resulted in the confiscation and destruction of many prisoners' clothes and personal belongings.

As many as 28 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 17 have reportedly been detained in the Assiyut General Prison, a facility for adults. The charges against the adolescents reportedly include membership in the illegal Islamic Group, monitoring the movements of the police, and attempting to break into a mosque. The adolescents allege that they were blindfolded and tortured at the state security police headquarters in Assiyut or at local police stations in southern Egypt. Torture methods reportedly included suspension, electric shocks, and beatings with sticks. In some cases, electricity was reportedly applied to the penis and tongue. Some of the adolescents have been detained for prolonged periods without trial, in one case since 1993.

Prison officials impose particularly harsh living conditions on some categories of prisoners such as Islamic activists. Al-Aqrab prison, which houses security suspects, has been closed to all visitors, including lawyers, since January, despite an administrative court order in April annulling the Ministry of Interior's ban.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Arbitrary arrest and detention are commonly used against suspected terrorists and others suspected of threatening national security. However, according to local human rights groups, in some mass security operations, security forces have subjected entire villages to collective punishments, such as curfews and mass arrests. Frequently, the police have taken into custody nonviolent Islamists and persons with no association with extremist groups. Such arrests and detentions are conducted under the State of Emergency which has been in effect since President Sadat's assassination in 1981.

In April the People's Assembly renewed the Emergency Law until May 31, 1997. Government supporters claim that the Emergency Law is a temporary measure used only to fight terrorism or drug trafficking. However, the Emergency Law has been in force so long that it has become an important characteristic of the political and legal system and is an impediment to the improvement of the human rights situation. Under the Emergency Law, there is a continuous flow of new arrests and releases from detention. Mass arrests continued in 1994, despite the Minister of Interior's stated intention in 1993 to deemphasize these arrests. Under the Emergency Law, the Interior Minister may detain an individual without indictment for 90 days. Detention orders are issued by public prosecutors who have limited powers to commit individuals to confinement. Some detainees are not allowed to inform their relatives of their detention, and access to legal counsel is frequently delayed. In theory, those arrested under the Emergency Law should be released after 90 days. In practice, the Government rearrests detainees who have been released by court order. The procedure in effect detains them without due process for prolonged periods.

Under the Penal Code, arrested persons are charged with violations of specific laws, have the right to a judicial determination of the legality of arrest, and should be formally charged within 48 hours of arrest or be released. Arrests under this procedure occur openly and with warrants issued by a district prosecutor or a judge. There is a system of bail. The Penal Code also gives the State wide detention powers. State prosecutors may obtain court orders to detain individuals for 45 days and to confine them for up to 6 months to complete investigations. Detainees are often released without explanation or acknowledgment that charges have been dropped.

The Penal Code contains several provisions to combat extremist violence. These provisions broadly define terrorism to include the acts of "spreading panic" and "obstructing the work of authorities," allow the police to hold suspects for 24 hours before obtaining arrest warrants, and prescribe the death penalty for persons found guilty of terrorism and life imprisonment for membership in a terrorist group.

Human rights observers report that the security forces maintain an unauthorized permanent presence in prisons. This practice purportedly violates Article 40 of the Criminal Procedures Code which prohibits contact between intelligence officers and prisoners. SSIS officers reportedly frequently remove prisoners from their cells and take them to other locations for questioning.

Official sources estimate the total prison population at 14,000, of which 5,000 are security cases. They note that approximately 4,000 detainees are held without charge. These numbers do not include the undetermined number of persons who are in detention prior to their entrance in the prison system (see Section 1.c.).

In May the Government detained 41 lawyers following a demonstration at the Bar Association building in Cairo by lawyers protesting the death in police custody of Abdel Hareth Madani (see Section 1.b.). Some of the detained lawyers were charged with demonstrating illegally and threatening public order, while others, acting as their defense attorneys, were accused of incitement. Some were detained without charge. None was tried. All but one, Montasser Al-Zayyat, were released after 3 to 4 weeks in detention. Al-Zayyat is the self-declared spokesman for the Islamic Group, as well as a well-known attorney who has defended accused extremists, including Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman. State prosecutors ordered his release from detention on December 6; he still faces possible trial on charges of his association with an illegal terrorist organization and contact with terrorists.

In other cases, security forces continue to detain at least 150 former defendants who have been acquitted in court. Some have been held for as long as 3 or 4 years.

In September the police reportedly arrested hundreds of people to prevent any disruption of the U.N. International Conference on Population and Development, which was held in Cairo. The police targeted extremists who were reportedly planning to attack the conference.

In October the police arrested hundreds of persons in Cairo and Hurghada in a security sweep. The arrests followed the September 27 killing at a Red Sea resort town of a German tourist and two Egyptian citizens by suspected terrorists.

Human rights observers estimate that 20 Palestinians are in detention. In September the Government released 34 Palestinians at the request of a Palestinian human rights group and expelled them to Gaza. Some Palestinians who are still in detention entered Egypt illegally, while others are legal residents and are under investigation for alleged political activities. Some Palestinian detainees have reportedly been tortured. One Palestinian was executed in 1994 after conviction for involvement in terrorist offenses.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

Although the judiciary in recent years has exercised considerable independence, the Government continued to circumvent the regular court system by trying accused terrorists in military courts, in which they do not receive fair trials.

There are three levels of civilian criminal courts: primary courts, appeals courts, and the Court of Cassation, the final stage of criminal appeal. There is also a Supreme Constitutional Court, but its jurisdiction is limited to constitutional challenges. It does not hear criminal appeals. The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic tradition, hence there are no juries. Criminal cases are heard by panels of three judges. Most trials are public.

In the civilian court system, the President appoints all judges based on nominations from the Higher Judicial Council, a constitutional body designed to ensure the independence of the judiciary. The Council is composed of senior judges, lawyers, and law professors and is chaired by the President of the Court of Cassation. It regulates judicial promotions, salaries, transfers, and disciplinary actions. In practice, however, the Minister of Justice, an executive branch officer, has considerable influence over judicial appointments and transfers. Judges may be appointed as prosecutors, and vice versa.

There are three special courts for crimes considered to touch upon national security: state security courts, courts of ethics, and military courts. The state security courts have jurisdiction over serious offenses, such as armed insurrection. They are divided into upper and lower divisions. Trials are heard by three judges, but two military officers may be added by presidential decree to the upper division. Defendants before a state security court may be indicted under the Penal Code or the Emergency Law. When an indictment is handed down under the Emergency Law, the court is designated an Emergency State Security Court.

A defendant has no judicial appeal from an Emergency State Security Court. However, he may file an appeal for clemency from the President, or the Prime Minister acting for the President, who is empowered to amend, commute, or cancel a sentence, or order a retrial. These powers imply that an acquittal may be canceled and the defendant retried for the same offense.

The Court of Ethics hears cases prosecuted under Law 95 of 1980 which makes illegal such activities as "endangering the public safety," inciting youth "to depart from religious values and loyalty to the fatherland," and denying the three "heavenly religions." It has an upper and lower division. In recent years, the ethics courts have been used relatively infrequently to try "economic crimes," such as corruption and drug trafficking. An ethics court conviction denies the defendant the right to engage in certain occupations or activities. A person may be tried in a state security court and an ethics court on similar indictments: in the former for criminal offenses and in the latter for the financial gains associated with those offenses. Ethics courts have confiscated financial gains obtained under indictable offenses and may add prison terms to those meted out by state security courts. If the ethics and state security courts reach different verdicts, the defendant may appeal to the President for a pardon.

As part of their independence from the Government, judges have ordered inquests into torture cases; acquitted defendants in cases in which confessions were extracted by torture; challenged the ban on workers' strikes; defended the right to nonviolent ideological opinion; overturned bans on prohibited political parties; and overturned an election law that discriminated against independent candidates and ordered dissolved the People's Assembly elected thereunder.

Nonetheless, the judiciary is still subject to considerable outside influence. The ethics courts allow nonjurists to try cases. The President may appoint military judges to try cases in the security courts. The executive branch does not always enforce court orders. Detainees may be rearrested under the Emergency Law without formal charge, even if previously released by a court. In 1994, in contrast to previous years, no defendants in terrorism trials were acquitted on the basis of torture, although, according to Egyptian human rights monitors, the majority of such defendants claimed they had been tortured.

Since 1992 the Government has tried at least 543 civilian defendants in military courts for terrorist acts or membership in subversive organizations. Defendants have been tried in groups as few as 8 and as many as 32. The Government claims that civilian trials are too lengthy and civilian judges too susceptible to intimidation to warrant their use in terrorist cases. In 1994 the Government referred for trial in military courts at least 97 civilians for terrorist acts or membership in subversive organizations. Through September, these courts sentenced 22 defendants to death, 42 to prison, and acquitted 3.

Each military court comprises three military officers. The presiding judge usually has general officer rank. In January 1993, the Supreme Constitutional Court upheld the use of military courts to try civilian cases. It ruled that the President, acting under powers in the Emergency Law, is authorized to refer "any crime" to a military court.

The Government maintains that civilian defendants receive fair trials in the military courts. It argues that all military judges have the same legal training as judges in the civilian courts; defense attorneys are accorded sufficient time to review the prosecution's files and inspect the State's evidence; trials are conducted under the same procedures used in civilian courts; defense attorneys have the right to cross-examine and to call any witness; military judges apply only the Penal Code in trying cases involving civilian defendants--no civilian defendant is subject to military law or military punishments; there are adequate safeguards against the admission of confessions obtained under duress; defense attorneys are appointed by the Bar Association at state expense for indigent defendants; verdicts are reviewed by two panels of military judges, who examine the trial procedures before they forward the verdicts to the President for ratification; and all defendants have a constitutional right to appeal to the President for clemency.

However, the military courts do not guarantee the defendants due process before an independent tribunal. Both judges and prosecutors are part of the State's executive authority. The charge of membership in a broadly defined terrorist group is frequently vague. Defense attorneys have complained that they have not been given sufficient time to prepare defenses. Judges tend to rush cases with many defendants, so that most trials are completed within 6 weeks or less. Moreover, military judges do not appear skilled in the rules of evidence; they have refused to hear witnesses or admit evidence deemed unimportant, and they do not treat torture complaints with sufficient seriousness. Defendants have no right of appeal; their sentences are reviewed by the President of the Republic.

There are no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners.

f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

In 1994 there continued to be substantial abridgment, under the Emergency Law, of constitutional provisions regarding the right to privacy. Under the Constitution, homes, correspondence, telephone calls, and other means of communication "shall have their own sanctity, and their secrecy shall be guaranteed." Police must obtain warrants before undertaking searches and wiretaps. Courts have dismissed cases in which warrants were issued without sufficient cause. Police officials who conduct searches without proper warrants are subject to criminal penalties, although these are seldom imposed.

The Emergency Law empowers the State to search persons or places without warrants. Security agencies frequently place political activists, suspected subversives, journalists, and writers under surveillance, screen their correspondence (especially international mail), search them and their homes, and confiscate personal property.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press. Egyptians openly express their views on a wide range of political and social issues, including vigorous criticism of the Government, without fear of retribution. Nonetheless, there are substantial limitations on the freedom of the press. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are often targets of criticism, but the press law stipulates fines or imprisonment for criticism of the President or a foreign head of state. However, in recent years, opposition journalists have, within limits, criticized the President without harassment, although he may not be satirized in cartoons.

The Government owns most major dailies, and the President appoints their editors in chief. These newspapers generally follow the government line. Nevertheless, criticisms of government policies are frequently found in the government-owned press.

The opposition newspapers are associated with political parties. Most are weeklies, except the centrist daily Al-Wafd and the smaller Islamist semiweekly Al-Shaab. All have small circulations. Opposition newspapers frequently publish tough criticisms of the Government, inspiring rejoinders from the government-owned press. They also give greater prominence to human rights abuses than the state-run newspapers. Most of the opposition press receives foreign funding as well as government subsidies and is printed and distributed by a government-owned publishing house.

The Government restricts the press in a number of ways. It controls the right to publish through its power to license newspapers. The Higher Press Council, chaired by the Speaker of the Shura Council, has the power to approve applications for new publications. Most members of the Higher Press Council are close to the ruling National Democratic Party and are inclined to follow the government line. In a potentially serious move against the freedom of the press, the Higher Press Council in September issued new regulations for licensing new newspapers, requiring applicants to provide detailed information on sources of financing, editorial structure, and, in the case of a political party paper, the party's ideology and platform. The regulations may be applied retroactively to existing newspapers and represent a significant tightening of the Government's control over the opposition press.

Opposition party papers may be called to account for publishing articles deemed inconsistent with their official ideologies. In the past, the Government has refused to license new parties whose stated platforms "duplicate" those of existing parties (see Section 3).

As in past years, the Government continued to interfere with freedom of expression, arresting and harassing Egyptian and foreign journalists, and confiscating printed material from the marketplace. In general, the Government harassed some journalists who wrote stories about corruption, portrayed Egypt in an unfavorable light, explored human rights and military issues, or who were associated with Islamist opposition elements. The Government has used such harassment to indicate that there are limits to criticism of the Government.

In March state security officials interrogated journalist Moustafa Bakry for his article in Al-Shaab newspaper in which he critized the security forces' use of violence against demonstrators protesting the massacre at the Hebron mosque in February. Also interrogated were Adel Hussein, the Chairman of the Socialist Labor Party (SLP), and Magdy Hussein, Al-Shaab's editor in chief. The three reported they had been accused of publishing articles that threatened state security, social order, and national unity. The Government did not file charges.

In the spring, state prosecutors repeatedly interrogated Magdy Hussein and the leadership of the SLP in connection with libel suits filed against them by senior government officials for articles on official corruption. As of late September, two of the four cases had been dropped against them.

In April a court sentenced another reporter for Al-Shaab, Abdel Sattar Abu Hussein, to 1 year in prison for publishing state secrets in an article on U.S.-Egyptian military exercises. Abu Hussein claimed his article was derived from open sources. He also claimed that after he was arrested, he was held incommunicado for 3 days and questioned about another one of his stories on alleged corruption in the military industry. In July the Minister of Defense commuted Abu Hussein's sentence to 3 months, after Al-Shaab retracted Abu Hussein's stories.

Also in April, Mohammed Zaky of Al-Wafd newspaper was detained for questioning about the source of an article he wrote on a reported police success in uncovering a new terrorist group.

In June the authorities detained Magdy Hussein and confiscated his notes after he returned from a visit to Yemen. In September security officials again interrogated Mustafa Bakry about foreign funding of Al-Shaab and his articles in another newspaper, Al-Ahrar, in which he detailed dissident activity in Saudi Arabia, repeated rumors about King Fahd's health problems, criticized the Egyptian Government for hosting the U.N. International Conference on Population and Development, and reported Iraqi press attacks on President Mubarak.

In December the State Security Prosecutor General remanded Adel Hussein to 15 days' custody for interrogation into his purported links with the Islamic Group, a terrorist organization. Members of the press syndicate staged a hunger strike in protest, and local human rights monitors and opposition leaders condemned the arrest and held a series of rallies.

In 1994 state prosecutors summoned several foreign journalists for questioning because they believed their reporting on internal events had damaged Egypt's international reputation.

The Government restricts news coverage on television and radio more tightly than newspaper coverage. Criticisms of government policies and reporting on government corruption and human rights abuses are almost never broadcast on radio and television. Political parties do not have access to broadcast facilities, even during election campaigns.

Various ministries are authorized to ban or confiscate books and other works of art upon obtaining a court order. The Ministry of Interior regularly confiscates leaflets and other works by Islamists. In 1994 the Ministry prevented the public sale of audio cassette tapes by Islamic preachers whose preachings were considered to foment sectarian strife.

The Ministry of Defense may ban works about sensitive security issues, and plays and films must pass Ministry of Culture censorship tests as scripts and as final productions. The Ministry of Culture also censors foreign films but is more lenient when these are in video format. In 1994 government censors banned the showing of the U.S. film, "Schindler's List," on the grounds of explicit violence, nudity, and sex. Government censors ensure that foreign films made in Egypt portray Egypt in a favorable light. Censors review scripts before filming, are present during filming, and have the right to review the film before it is sent out of Egypt.

The Ministry of Information censors television productions and foreign news publications. On occasion in 1994, the Ministry impounded some foreign news publications before they were released. The Ministry does not usually inform the management of foreign publications of the reasons for impoundments. In 1994 the Ministry banned or delayed the distribution of nine issues of the English-language weekly, The Middle East Times. Those issues carried stories on government corruption, human rights violations, and the Government's security campaign against extremists.

The Islamic Research Institute at Al-Azhar University has legal authority to censor, but not to confiscate, all publications dealing with the Koran and Islamic scriptural texts. In recent years, however, the Institute has passed judgment on the suitability of nonreligious books and artistic productions. In February an advisory council in the judiciary issued an opinion expanding Al-Azhar's censorship to include visual and audio artistic works. In response, the Minister of Culture issued a statement describing the court's decision as advisory and not binding upon the Government. In the past, President Mubarak has publicly approved Al-Azhar's censorship role, but in 1994 he stated that the Government would not allow confiscation of books from the market without a court order.

As in recent years, moderate Muslims and secularist writers have found themselves under attack by extremists. In October suspected extremists attempted to assassinate Nagib Mahfouz, Nobel Laureate and antifundamentalist critic, whose novel, "The Children of the Gebelawi," has been banned from public sale by Al-Azhar since 1959 because it is considered blasphemous. Following the murder attempt, the press published the novel in a show of solidarity with Mahfouz and secular intellectuals (see Section 1.a.).

The Government does not generally restrict academic freedom at universities. However, in May the People's Assembly amended the Education Law to authorize university presidents to appoint deans of faculties. Under the previous law, faculty deans were elected by their peers. The Government justified the measure as a means to combat Islamist influence in the school system.

In January a court ruled against Islamist lawyers who had petitioned the court to divorce Nasr Abu Zeid, an Arabic language professor at Cairo University, from his wife on grounds that Abu Zeid's writings on the Koran were heretical. The petitioners argued that, as a heretic, Abu Zeid should not be allowed to remain married to a Muslim woman in a Muslim country. The court found the petitioners had no standing to file a divorce suit. The case was in appeal at year's end.

b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

There continue to be substantial restrictions on this freedom. Under a 1923 law, citizens must obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior before holding public meetings, rallies, and protest marches. Permits are generally granted for rallies held indoors or on university campuses.

In May security forces broke up a demonstration of lawyers protesting the death in police custody of Abdel Hareth Madani (see Section 1.a.). When the demonstrating lawyers attempted to enter the street, the police moved in with tear gas and clubs. The Government had denied the Bar Association's request for a permit for a protest march, and thus termed the demonstration illegal.

Under Law 32 of 1964, the Ministry of Social Affairs has sweeping authority over all Egyptian "private organizations," including the right to license and dissolve them, confiscate their properties, appoint members to their boards, and interfere in other internal administrative matters. Licenses may be revoked if such organizations engage in political or religious activities. The law authorizes the Ministry to "merge two or more associations to achieve a similar function," a provision that can be used to merge an undesirable organization out of existence.

In 1994 the Ministry dissolved a nongovernmental organization which had received unauthorized funds from a Kuwaiti group, the Society for the Revival of the Islamic Heritage. The Government expelled several Kuwaiti citizens associated with the organization, asserting that the organization had distributed funds to extremists. In August the Ministry announced that all organizations receiving charitable funds from abroad would be obliged to transfer the funds to the Ministry for distribution.

Since 1985, the Government has refused under Law 32 to license the EOHR and the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) on grounds that they are political organizations. Both continue to operate openly (see Section 4). Similarly, the request by Amnesty International (AI) for legal status for its local chapter has been pending with the Government for 4 years. Until recently, the Government allowed AI to operate freely, but in October it informed AI's local chapter that it would no longer be allowed to hold meetings, pending a decision on its request for legal status. The Government says it is still studying that request.

Under 1993 legislation on professional associations, an association must elect its governing board by at least 50 percent of its general membership. Failing a quorum, a second election must be held in which at least 33 per cent of the membership votes in the board. If such a quorum is impossible, the judiciary may appoint a caretaker board until new elections can be set. The law was adopted to prevent further gains in the professional syndicates by Islamist candidates.

c. Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites. However, there are important limitations. Islam is the state religion. Most Egyptians are Muslim, but approximately 10 per cent of the population, 5 million people, belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. There are other small Christian denominations. The small Jewish community practices its religion without harassment. Members of recognized religions maintain links with coreligionists abroad. The foreign clergy pursue their ministries without harassment, but the law effectively bars non-Muslims from proselytizing.

Islam accepts Christian and other converts, but Muslims face legal problems if they convert to another faith. There is no clear legal prohibition against conversion or proselytizing, but Article 98f of the Penal Code prohibits any person from "degrading or disdaining any of the holy religions or any of its religious sects" with "the intention of harming national unity and social peace." This is interpreted as forbidding the conversion of Muslims by non-Muslims. Conviction is punishable by 6 months' to 5 years' imprisonment. In 1993 the authorities twice arrested an Egyptian lay missionary for preparing Christian missionary literature for publication. A court ordered his release from detention in March.

In July the Minister of Education issued a decree prohibiting local school officials from requiring schoolgirls to wear the hegab (head scarf) without parental consent on school grounds. A group of lawyers and parents, who favored the hegab, challenged the decree. An administrative court ruled against the Minister, but his decree was later upheld by an appelate court.

The courts have upheld the principle that Muslims cannot change their identity papers to reflect their conversion to a new religion. As a consequence, married male converts from Islam must register their children as Muslims, as the law considers them to be Muslims.

In the past, state security forces have harassed and detained for prolonged periods Egyptian Christians accused of proselytizing Muslims. In November 1993, security forces arrested six Coptic Christians who had sought to dissuade another Coptic Christian, who was also arrested, from converting to Islam. All seven persons were held in detention without formal charge. The Supreme State Security Court ordered their release in May.

An 1856 Ottoman decree still in force requires non-Muslims to obtain what is now a presidential decree to build or repair a place of worship. Coptic Christians maintain they are frequently unable to obtain such authorization or are blocked by the security forces from using the authorizations that have been issued. As a result, some communities use private buildings and apartments for religious services. From 1992 to 1994, the Government increased the number of building permits issued to Christian communities to an average of more than 20 a year, compared to the average of 5 permits issued annually in the 1980's. Most permits appear to be for the repair of existing structures and not for new construction of churches. Christian and Muslim reformers urge the abolition of the Ottoman decree, but Islamists defend the building restrictions.

According to human rights and legal sources, the Government in June closed two buildings in an unzoned area near Alexandria which had been used by Coptic Evangelical Christians since 1990 for church activities. Church lawyers are pursuing a legal suit against the closures. The lawyers maintain that the closures violate previous court rulings upholding the right to conduct religious services in private buildings without prior government approval. They also point out that the closed buildings are located in an area were unlicensed buildings are common. In July security forces arrested a Coptic Christian who protested the closures in letters published in newspapers. The police released the individual after 10 days' detention after he signed a statement binding him not to discuss the closures in public.

In theory, mosques must also be licensed by the Government, but the Government reports approximately half of the estimated 70,000 mosques in Egypt are unlicensed. The Penal Code prohibits using a place of worship for antigovernment speeches, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs proposes themes and monitors sermons. In practice, the Government cannot control all sermons, especially at "unauthorized" mosques where sermons may invoke antigovernment, anti-Christian, and anti-Western themes. In 1994 the Government increased efforts to bring private mosques under its administrative control as a means to counter Islamic extremism.

d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Egyptians and foreigners are free to travel within Egypt except in certain military areas. Males who have not completed compulsory military service may not travel abroad or emigrate, although this restriction can be circumvented. Unmarried women under 21 must have permission from their fathers to obtain passports and travel; married women require the same permission from their husbands. Citizens who leave the country have the right to return.

In recent years, the Government has denied permission to Christian converts from Islam to travel abroad. The deportation of citizens and aliens granted political asylum is prohibited and not practiced.

Egypt is host to thousands of refugees, but only a few are granted the right to resettle in Egypt. In the past, some Ethiopians and other Africans, who seek documentation as refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, have been detained by the police and then transported to areas near the Libyan or Sudanese borders where they are released. Some have returned to their countries; others have found their way back to Egyptian cities.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) dominates the 454-seat People's Assembly, the Shura Council, local governments, the mass media, labor, the large public sector, and the licensing of new political parties, newspapers, and private organizations to such an extent that, as a practical matter, Egyptians do not have a meaningful ability to change the national government.

In 1993 President Hosni Mubarak was elected unopposed to a third 6-year term by the People's Assembly. In October of that year, his reelection was approved by 96 percent of the voters in a national referendum. The Government claimed that 86 per cent of the electorate went to the polls although observers judged that the actual figure was much lower. The electorate was not presented with a choice among competing presidential candidates; it was offered the opportunity only to vote for or against Mubarak's reelection. Two opposition parties, the Wafd and the Islamist-affiliated Socialist Labor Party, urged the public to boycott the referendum, and two other parties, the leftist Tagammu and the Nasserist Party, urged the public to vote against President Mubarak. The other opposition parties endorsed Mubarak's candidacy.

In June the Government convened a "national dialog" conference of figures in politics, labor, the media, and intellectuals to discuss the country's future priorities. Although the Government had stated that the dialog would be open to various views, it strictly controlled the agenda and the selection of the delegates, who were overwhelmingly drawn from NDP members and sympathizers. The Government invited the opposition parties to send three representatives each. Two parties boycotted the conference. At the conference, the Government disallowed any discussion of constitutional reform, nor did it address such topics as human rights.

Acting on recommendations from the dialog, President Mubarak in October issued edicts amending or abolishing several old laws on political party registration, candidates for public office, and elections. However, at year's end, he has not indicated how or when the more substantial political reforms recommended by the dialog might be implemented.

In the 1990 People's Assembly election, NDP candidates won 383 seats of 444 elected, independents won 55, and a leftist party won 6. Seven opposition parties boycotted the election. The Constitution reserves 10 Assembly seats for presidential appointees, assuring some representation for Coptic Christians and women. Women were granted suffrage in 1956. Ten women hold Assembly seats: 7 elected and 3 appointed. One Copt is in the Cabinet and five Copts sit in the Assembly: one elected and four appointed. The Assembly debates government proposals, and members exercise their authority to call cabinet ministers to explain policy, but it does not have sufficient authority to challenge or restrain the executive in the areas of security or foreign policy. The Assembly can exercise significant influence over economic policies, primarily by blocking governmental initiatives. The executive initiates almost all legislation; the Assembly may not modify the budget except with the Government's approval, and there is little oversight of the Interior Ministry's use of Emergency Law powers. Many executive branch initiatives and policies are carried out by ministerial decree without significant legislative oversight. The military budget is prepared by the executive and not debated publicly. Presidential appointees do not require legislative approval. Roll-call votes in the Assembly are rare. Votes are generally reported in aggregate terms of yeas and nays, and thus constituents have no independent method of checking a member's voting record.

There are 12 recognized opposition parties. The law empowers the Government to bring felony charges against those who form a party without a license. New parties must be approved by the Parties Committee, a semiofficial body dominated by the ruling National Democratic Party. Since the late 1970's, the Committee has granted a license to only one opposition party--the Wafd Party. Other parties have been granted licenses by presidential decrees or by court orders. The sole application to form a new party in 1994, from the Egyptian Popular Democratic Party, was pending at year's end.

In January the Political Parties Court rejected the 1993 application of the Social Justice Party. In February the Higher Administrative Court upheld a lower court ruling which disapproved the establishment of the Peace Party.

The law prohibits political parties based on religion. Nevertheless, Muslim Brotherhood partisans are publicly known and openly speak their views. Some have served in the Assembly as independents or members of other recognized parties.

Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights

The Government refuses to license local human rights organizations as private entities under Law 32 of 1964 (see Section 2.b.) on the grounds that they are political organizations. Appeals from the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the associated Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) on the ruling on their legal status are still before the courts. AOHR has successfully registered as a foreign organization with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Despite its nonrecognition, the EOHR operates openly, its field workers visit prisons and government offices, and the Government does not interfere with its funding from foreign human rights organizations. Other activists have successfully registered their human rights organizations as corporations under the commercial law, thus skirting the obstacles posed by Law 32.

In May an EOHR staff member, who was also a defense lawyer for persons arrested in an unauthorized demonstration at the Bar Association headquarters (see Section 1.c.), was arrested ostensibly on grounds of inciting public disorder and questioned extensively about his activities at the EOHR.

In June representatives of the New York-based Human Rights Watch complained of overt surveillance by state security officers during one of their field trips to upper Egypt. In September the EOHR reported that state security officers ordered EOHR's publisher not to distribute copies of EOHR's 1993 annual report.

Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status

Women

The law provides for equality of the sexes, but aspects of the law and many traditional practices discriminate against women. By law women need their husbands' or fathers' permission to obtain a passport or travel abroad (Section 2.d.). Only males can confer citizenship. In rare cases, this means that children born to Egyptian mothers and stateless fathers are themselves stateless.

Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally correspond to an individual's religion, which for most Egyptians is Islam. A 1979 liberalization of the Family Status Law strengthened a Muslim woman's rights to divorce and to child custody. In 1985, however, the changes were found unconstitutional on grounds that they conflicted with Islamic law and were repealed.

Under Islamic law, non-Muslim males must convert to Islam to marry Muslim women, but non-Muslim women need not convert to marry Muslim men. Muslim female heirs receive half the amount of a male heir's inheritance, while Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance rights. A sole female heir receives half her parents' estate; the balance goes to designated male relatives. A sole male heir inherits all his parents' property. Male Muslim heirs have the duty to provide for all family members who need assistance. Egyptian women have employment opportunities in government, medicine, law, academia, the arts, and, to a lesser degree, in business. About 100 officers in the Egyptian diplomatic service are women, including 3 ambassadors. There are no women judges. Although there is no legal basis to prohibit women judges, a woman under consideration for promotion to magistrate was denied the promotion on the basis of gender in 1993 and is suing the Government.

Social pressure against women pursuing a career is strong, and some Egyptian feminists say that a resurgent Islamic fundamentalist trend limits further gains. Women's rights advocates also point to other discriminatory attitudes and practices such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and the male relative's role in enforcing women's compliance with religiously prescribed codes of sexual conduct.

Family violence against women occurs and is reflected in press accounts of specific incidents. Official or nonofficial quantitative data do not exist. In general, the intervention of neighbors and extended family members tends to limit the prevalence and scope of such violence. Abuse within the family is rarely discussed publicly, owing to the value attached to privacy in this traditional society. Neither the government, nongovernmental organizations, or human rights organizations has commented publicly upon family violence.

There are at least two active women's rights groups, one affiliated with the EOHR. The other is the Communications Group for the Enhancement of the Status of Women, which has published a booklet on the legal rights of Egyptian women.

Children

The Government remains committed to the protection of children's welfare within the limits of its budgetary resources. Many of the resources for children's welfare are provided by international donors, especially in the field of child immunization. Child labor is widespread, despite the Government's commitment to eradicate it.

International health experts have condemned female genital mutilation (FGM) as damaging to physical and mental health. Statistics on the prevalence of FGM vary, but government and private sources agree it is common among 70 to 80 per cent of rural and poor urban women. The act is generally performed on girls between the ages of 7 and 10, probably with equal prevalence among Muslims and Coptic Christians.

A 1959 decree and subsequent amendments, which described the practice as "psychologically harmful," limited the practice to excision. However, the more drastic infibulation is practiced in some parts of southern Egypt. The decree prohibited doctors from performing the excision in government health facilities. Current law stipulates penalties for nonmedical practitioners; a barber was sentenced in November to a year at hard labor for circumcising a child. However, the law does not stipulate punishment for parents who violate the law. Following public outcry in 1994 over foreign television airing of the circumcision of a 9-year old girl, the Minister of Health, in the company of religious leaders, announced the Government would hold its first conference on FGM. The Government also broadcast television programs condemning the practice. The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, head of the world's oldest institution of Islamic thought, has issued a decree declaring FGM a religiously mandated duty. His ruling could hamper any public educational efforts by the Government.

Religious Minorities

The approximately 5 million Coptic Christians are the objects of occasional violent assaults by Islamic extremists and of discrimination by the Government. In 1994 Islamic extremists are believed to have been responsible for killing at least eight Coptic residents of Assiyut governorate, including the shooting of six pilgrims at a monastery. The area of Dairut, Assiyut governorate, the scene of a massacre of 13 Coptic residents in 1992, is reportedly still tense. Local Coptic residents fear for their personal safety when traveling outside their homes.

Extremists have obstructed church repairs and construction and harassed Copt-owned businesses. Christians have complained that the Government is lax in protecting Coptic lives and property. Security forces arrest extremists who perpetrate violence against Copts, but the Coptic community does not believe the Government is vigorous in its efforts to prevent the attacks and does little to correct nonviolent forms of discrimination, including its own.

Government discriminatory practices include: suspected statistical underrepresentation of the size of the Christian population; delays in issuing church building and repair permits and obstruction of permits obtained; the detention and mistreatment of some Muslim converts to Christianity; laws that prevent Muslims from changing their identity papers to reflect their conversion to Christianity (upheld in a 1980 court decision); anti-Christian discrimination in education, illustrated by the requirement that public school students, including Christians, memorize Koranic verses as part of their Arabic studies; a public school ban on the hiring of Christian Arabic teachers as the curriculum involves the study of the Koran; the production of Islamic television programs, some with anti-Christian themes; job discrimination in the public sector, the police, the armed forces, and government agencies; reported discrimination against Christians in admission to state medical schools; and underrepresentation in government. There are no Coptic governors and no Copts in the upper ranks of the military, police, and diplomatic service.

People with Disabilities

There are approximately 5.7 million disabled persons in Egypt, of whom 1.5 million are severely disabled. The Government makes serious efforts to address their rights. It works closely with United Nations agencies and other international aid donors to design job-training programs for the disabled. The Government also seeks to increase the public's awareness of the capabilities of the disabled in television programming, the print media, and in educational material in public schools. By law, all businesses must designate 5 percent of their jobs for the disabled, who are exempted from normal literacy requirements. Although there is no legislation mandating access to public accommodations and transportation, the disabled may ride government-owned mass transit buses without charge, are given priority in obtaining telephones, and receive reductions on customs duty for private vehicles.

Section 6 Worker Rights

a. The Right of Association

Egyptian workers may, but are not required to, join trade unions. A union local, or worker's committee, may be formed if 50 employees express a desire to organize. Most union members, about 25 per cent of the labor force, are employed by state-owned enterprises. The law stipulates that "high administrative" officials in government and the public sector may not join unions.

There are 23 industrial unions, all required to belong to the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the sole legally recognized labor federation. The International Labor Organization's Committee of Experts (COE) has repeatedly emphasized that a law requiring all trade unions to belong to a single federation infringes on the freedom of association. The Government has shown no sign that it intends to accept the establishment of more than one federation. The ETUF leadership asserts that it actively promotes worker interests and that there is no need for another federation. ETUF officials have close relations with the NDP, and some are members of the People's Assembly and the Shura Council. They speak vigorously on behalf of worker concerns, but public confrontations between ETUF and the Government are rare. Disputes are more often resolved by consensus behind closed doors.

Some unions within ETUF are affiliated with international trade union organizations. Others are in the process of doing so.

The Government is in the process of drafting a new labor law which has not yet been submitted to the People's Assembly. The law is expected to be debated in the spring of 1995. The proposed law provides statutory authorization for the rights to strike and to collective bargaining. Under current labor laws such rights are not adequately guaranteed. Even though the right to strike is not guaranteed, strikes occur. The Government considers strikes a form of public disturbance and hence illegal.

In October the police used force to break up a public demonstration in support of a strike by several thousand textile workers at the northern town of Kafr al-Duwar. In putting down the demonstration, the police killed at least 5 persons, including a 12-year-old child, arrested more than 100 demonstrators. Sixty demonstrators were injured.

b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The draft labor law provides statutory authorization for collective bargaining. Under the current law, unions may negotiate work contracts with public sector enterprises if the latter agrees to such negotiations, but unions otherwise lack collective bargaining power in the state sector. Under current circumstances, collective bargaining does not exist in any meaningful sense because the Government sets wages, benefits, and job classifications by law. Larger firms in the private sector generally adhere to such government-mandated standards.

Labor law and practice are the same in the export processing zones as in the rest of the country.

c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is illegal and not practiced.

d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 12. Education is compulsory until age 15. An employee must be at least 15 to join a labor union. The Labor Law of 1981 states that children aged 12 to 15 may work 6 hours a day but not after 7 p.m. and not in dangerous or heavy activities. Child workers must obtain medical certificates and work permits before they are employed.

A 1988 survey found that 1.4 million children between the ages of 6 and 14 are employed--about 7 percent of the total work force. A 1989 study estimated that two-thirds of child labor, perhaps 720,000 children, work on farms. However, children also work as apprentices in repair and craft shops, in heavier industries such as brickmaking and textiles, and as workers in leather factories and carpet-making, which largely supplies the export market. While local trade unions report that the Ministry of Labor adequately enforces the labor laws in state-owned enterprises, enforcement in the private sector, especially in family-owned enterprises, is lax.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

For government and public-sector employees, the minimum wage is approximately $20 a month for a 6-day, 48-hour workweek. Base pay is supplemented by a complex system of fringe benefits and bonuses that may double or triple a worker's take-home pay. It is doubtful that the average family could survive on a worker's base pay at the minimum wage rate. The minimum wage is also legally binding on the private sector, and larger private companies generally observe the requirement and pay bonuses as well. Smaller firms do not always pay the minimum wage or bonuses. The Ministry of Labor sets worker health and safety standards, which also apply in the export processing zones, but enforcement and inspection are uneven.

 

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