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Viewing cable 09CAIRO858, FIRST VISIT OF A UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO EGYPT

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO858 2009-05-17 14:02 2011-01-28 00:12 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO6312
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #0858/01 1371450
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 171450Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2447
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0440
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0290
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000858 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FOR NEA/ELA, DRL/NESCA AND IO/RHS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2029 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM CT UN EG
SUBJECT: FIRST VISIT OF A UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR TO EGYPT 
 
REF: A. CAIRO 598 
     B. CAIRO 288 
     C. 08 CAIRO 971 
 
Classified By: Economic-Political Counselor Catherine Hill-Herndon 
for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1. KEY POINTS: 
 
-- (C) UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection 
of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering 
terrorism, Martin Scheinin, visited Egypt from April 17-21. 
This was the first visit of a UN Special Rapporteur the GOE 
has allowed.  The MFA said the GOE will invite a second, 
unspecified rapporteur to visit in June or July. 
 
-- (C) The MFA told us Scheinin focused exclusively on 
Egypt's draft counterterrorism (CT) law, which is intended to 
replace the Emergency Law.  Scheinin focused on a timeframe 
for parliament to consider the draft law, and the draft law's 
technical definitions of terrorism and pre-trial detention. 
 
-- (C) The MFA acknowledged that Scheinin criticized Egyptian 
laws allowing detention without charge, warrantless searches 
and wiretapping, and State Security courts.  The MFA does not 
anticipate the GOE will submit the draft CT law before 
parliament adjourns in June. 
 
-- (SBU) Civil society contacts told us Scheinin held a 
three-hour discussion with 11 NGOs on the draft CT law. 
Scheinin plans to issue a report on the GOE's "CT law and 
practice by the end of 2009," but not until he visits Egypt 
again. 
 
2. (C) Comment:  The draft counterterrorism law is not 
public, and only select GOE officials are familiar with its 
contents.  It is unclear whether it contains human rights 
improvements over the current Emergency Law, which allows 
detention without charge, warrantless searches and 
wiretapping, and State Security courts.  End comment. 
 
3. (C) MFA Deputy Director for Human Rights Omar Shalaby told 
us that Scheinin held "fruitful discussions" with GOE 
officials, members of parliament and the quasi-governmental 
National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), focusing 
exclusively on Egypt's draft counterterrorism law which is 
intended to replace the Emergency Law, in force almost 
continuously since 1967.  Shalaby noted that Scheinin met 
with Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mufeed Shehab, 
Parliament (PA) Speaker Fathi Surour, the chief of the 
Supreme Constitutional Court, the prosecutor general, NCHR 
Deputy Chairman Kamal Aboulmagd, and senior MFA and Interior 
Ministry officials at the assistant minister level. 
 
4. (C) According to Shalaby, Scheinin asked the Supreme 
Constitutional Court chief about the court's role in 
protecting the rights of the accused.  Scheinin asked PA 
Speaker Surour about a timeframe for the law's submission to 
parliament.  Surour was not able to give a specific 
timeframe, but said he intends to share the draft law with 
the public.  Shalaby told us that the law is still with the 
GOE drafting committee, and that the MFA does not believe the 
GOE will submit it to parliament during the current session 
ending in June.  Shalaby said that during Scheinin's 
meetings, he asked about the draft law's definitions of 
terrorism, pre-trial detention and administrative detention, 
and queried GOE officials about international agreements on 
extraordinary rendition.  Shalaby said Scheinin raised a few 
issues that went "slightly beyond" the draft CT law, such as 
the right to petition the renewable 30-day detentions allowed 
by the Emergency Law, and the inspection of prison 
conditions. 
 
5. (C) Shalaby said that in his meetings, Scheinin was 
critical of Article 179 of the Egyptian Constitution.  (Note: 
 This article charges the state with "safeguarding 
security...in the face of the dangers of terrorism," and 
notes that government counterterrorism measures "cannot be 
hampered by" other constitutional articles requiring judges 
or the Public Prosecutor to order detentions, and prohibiting 
warrantless searches and wiretapping.  End note.)  According 
to Shalaby, Scheinin also reiterated "comments" from his 2006 
report.  (Note: The Special Rapporteur's 2006 report notes 
that the Emergency Law allows detention without charge, and 
criticizes State Security courts as "not independent." End 
note.)  Shalaby said the GOE would allow the visit of another 
UN special rapporteur in June or July.  Although Shalaby 
would not specify which rapporteur, he hinted that it would 
 
CAIRO 00000858  002 OF 002 
 
 
be a rapporteur dealing with economic, social and cultural 
rights. 
 
6. (C) The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) 
hosted Scheinin for a three-hour meeting with 11 Egyptian 
NGOs in advance of his consultations with the GOE and 
parliament.  CIHRS Director Bahey Al-Din Hassan told us that 
the NGOs delivered presentations on the draft 
counterterrorism law leaked to the independent newspaper 
"Al-Masry Al-Youm" in February 2008, and discussed specific 
cases of detainees being "abused" under The Emergency Law. 
(Note:  Per ref C, the MFA told us in May 2008 that the 
leaked draft was not accurate.  End note.)  Hassan said that 
Scheinin asked questions regarding the presentations, but did 
not discuss the points he planned to raise with the GOE and 
parliament.  Soha Abdelatty, Deputy Director of the Egyptian 
Initiative for Personal Rights, who attended the meeting, 
told us that the NGO presentations focused on how 
counterterrorism measures currently impact the freedom of 
expression and association, and labor rights.  Abdelatty said 
that Scheinin expressed particular concern with GOE 
surveillance of Egyptian citizens, access to phone records, 
and interception of communications. 
 
7. (U) Scheinin issued a press statement following his visit 
thanking the GOE for its cooperation and for the "open and 
extensive discussions" he conducted with "key stakeholders" 
regarding counterterrorism.  The statement lists Scheinin's 
meetings with specific GOE officials and parliamentarians, 
and makes note of his consultations with civil society.  It 
concludes: "The willingness of the government to discuss the 
challenging subject of upholding human rights while 
countering terrorism is most encouraging.  I will continue my 
dialogue with Egypt with a view to submitting a full public 
report on its counter-terrorism law and practice by the end 
of 2009.  The report, which will contain a set of findings 
and recommendations, will then be considered by a future 
session of the Human Rights Council.  In this context, I 
discussed with authorities my wish to visit Egypt again in 
the near future for the purpose of finalizing my report." 
SCOBEY