EPW Week in Brief – March 13 – March 20, 2019

03/20/2019 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • The Constitutional Affairs Committee rescheduled its dialogue sessions with stakeholders over the constitutional amendments. The first three of six meetings are to be held March 20 and 21, and the latter three will occur March 27 and 28. The committee developed a list of 720 individuals, most of whom are known to be aligned with state policies, who were invited to attend the six sessions. Political parties held separate dialogue sessions nationwide to promote the proposed amendments.
  • Following the State Department’s release of its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, in which it was critical of Egypt’s human rights record, the Human Rights Committee of Egypt’s House of Representatives released a statement rejecting the report. The committee labeled the report as “unprofessional” and politically charged.

Notable Developments

Amendments Progressing Through Constitutional Affairs Committee:

The Constitutional Affairs Committee will convene once on March 20 and twice on March 21 with stakeholders for the first three of six forums to discuss the proposed constitutional amendments. The committee was scheduled to begin deliberations on the amendments March 18, but the dialogue sessions were postponed as Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al was attending the Arab-African Youth Forum. Abdel ‘Al will lead the sessions rather than committee Chairman Bahaa Abu Shoqa, which is within his authority per Article 9 of parliamentary bylaws. The committee previously prepared a list of 720 individuals who will be invited to attend the sessions, including nine who were invited to attend all six sessions based on their public support for the amendments and their efforts in drafting the constitution in 2014. Additional invited parties include officials from state-aligned religious institutions, lawyers, economists, officials from multiple government agencies, media members sympathetic to government policies, and handpicked students. The last three meetings are scheduled for  on March 27 and 28.

As the committee progresses in its review of the amendments, political parties held public events to promote the proposals. The Egyptian Parties Alliance, a block of 60 political parties formed by Moussa Mustafa Moussa in December 2018 to promote government policies, held a conference on March 14 to develop a set of recommendations to be submitted to the Constitutional Affairs Committee. The group has yet to release the suggestions it proposed to the committee. The Nation’s Future Party organized public forums in Fayoum, Sohag, New Valley, Qalyubia, and Giza to promote the proposed amendments.

Human Rights Committee Rejects State Department Report:

The State Department released its 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices  on March 13. The country report for Egypt prompted outcry in the House of Representatives based on the critical assessment of human rights conditions in Egypt. The Human Rights Committee released a statement describing the report as “unprofessional,” and asserted that the information utilized in the report originated from biased organizations with political ambitions. The statement added that the State Department ignored notable progress made in Egypt in religious freedom, economic rights, and medical issues. The report noted continued violence against minority religious groups, economic discrimination against women, and medical abuses against detained individuals.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The House agreed in principle to the amendments to the Financial Markets Censorship Law on March 12. The amendments had previously been referred to a joint committee of Budget and Economic Affairs at a separate time during the current plenary session, and had been expedited through the joint committee. The amendments require the authority created under the existing law, which was passed in 2009, to distribute 80 percent of its funds to the state treasury.

Deputy Speaker of the House Soleiman Wahdan proposed a bill that would criminalize spreading false news deemed detrimental to the state. Violators of the law would be subject to imprisonment ranging from three months to six years and a fine between 10,000 and 100,000 Egyptian pounds. The law would also create a commission composed of representatives from various ministries to monitor the spread of false news; this body would be subordinate to the cabinet.

In Session:

The House prepared a report in which it documented six laws approved by the legislature during February as well as the three laws agreed upon in principle during the month. The report was not published in the media. 

The Transportation Committee met with officials from Alexandria to discuss the conditions of prominent roads in the governorate ahead of the African Cup, which is scheduled to occur in Egypt in June.

In News and Statements:

A runoff vote is scheduled to be held for the available seat in Ashmoun April 2–3 for international residents and April 7–8 for domestic residents. The ballot will feature Ahmed al-Khashen against Hatem Maglaa.

Members of the Transportation Committee visited the port of Alexandria on March 18 to assess construction developments in the area, including a  parking garage.

Coalition in Support of Egypt Chairman Abdel Hadi al-Qasbi hosted Uzbek ambassador to Egypt Oybek Usmanov on March 19 to discuss bilateral relations between the two countries.

Abdel ‘Al met with the Cuban ambassador to Egypt, Tanya Fernandez, on March 14 to discuss the countries’ efforts to prevent and treat communicable diseases.

The same day, Abdel ‘Al also met Jordan’s ambassador to Egypt, Ali al-Aayid, to discuss bilateral relations.

Wahdan condemned the terrorist attack in New Zealand, while also calling for an international conference to define terrorism.

Parliamentary Spokesman Salah Hassiballah praised the delegation that attended the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva for their efforts in combating global terrorism. Hassiballah also dismissed reports from European countries regarding human rights abuses in Egypt, asserting that there are no arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, or torture in Egypt. Hassiballah added that any victims of the death penalty have been subject to appropriate due process per Egyptian law.

Abdel ‘Al hosted Slovenian Foreign Minister Miro Cerar on March 14 to discuss proposed bilateral agreements.

A delegation from the African Affairs Committee, led by committee Chairman Tariq Radwan, visited the Ethiopian and Kenyan embassies in Egypt on March 13 to offer their condolences following crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302, which killed 156 individuals.

Looking Ahead

  • The House will reconvene in plenary session on March 24.