17 Rights Groups Condemn Government Decision
to Bar Egyptian NGO from UN Meeting
Seventeen Egyptian human rights organizations today condemned the government decision to bar the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) from participating in the UN General Assembly High Level Meeting (HLM) on HIV and AIDS, to be held in New York on 10-11 June.
"The government's attempt to prevent an Egyptian rights organization from participating in an international meeting is a disturbing escalation of the atmosphere of harassment and restrictions targeting independent human rights organizations," the groups said.
The rights groups added that this unprecedented move comes within a context of repeated violations of the right to freedom of association. Some recent examples of such violations include the inadequate investigation of the physical assault against the director of the Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, the refusal to implement a recent court ruling ordering the registration of the Center for Trade Unions and Workers' Services and the increasing number of interventions by security agencies to prevent conferences and other public activities by human rights groups.
The EIPR was among the civil society organizations nominated for participation at the UN meeting, which is intended to review progress towards the implementation of the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS. The EIPR had actively participated in the last high level meeting on AIDS in June 2006.
The General Assembly resolution on the organization of this year's meeting, adopted last December, stipulates that a list of civil society groups is to be compiled by the President of the General Assembly and submitted for adoption by Member States, which retain the right to object to any of the proposed organizations.
The 17 human rights groups urged the Egyptian government to honor its legal obligations under both the Constitution and international human rights law to respect the right to freedoms of association and expression, and to cease immediately all hostile and arbitrary measures adopted against independent human rights groups as punishment for their role in documenting and exposing rights violations.
The organizations also called on the UN to take necessary measures to ensure that civil society groups enjoy the right to participate freely in its activities. "The free and active participation by independent civil society actors is a prerequisite for achieving the goals of the world body," the groups added.