ما بين يناير 2011 ويناير 2016

Ayman-Okeil-GM-of-Maat-for-Peace-Development-and-Human-Rights

قبل أيام قليلة من الذكرى الخامسة لثورة المصريين في 25 يناير 2011، وبالتزامن مع دعوات “متقطعة” من قوى محسوبة على المعسكر المناهض للنظام الحالي لثورة جديدة، تصبح المقارنة بين دوافع ومقدمات الثورة الأم من جهة والدعوات الحالية الخارجة على السياق من جهة ثانية أمرًا ضروريًا ولازمًا.

والضرورة هنا ليس “سببها” المصادرة على حق أي فصيل في الدعوة للتظاهر السلمي، بل الغضب من النظام –أي نظام- والدعوة لرحيله بالطرق السلمية والقانونية المشروعة، ولكن سببها هو ذلك الخلط المتعمد والمشوه بل المزيف بين أهداف وغايات فصيل أو فصائل أو تيارات أو حركات أو تجمعات محددة منخرطة في تلك الدعوة، وأهداف وغايات السواد الأعظم من الشعب المصري، الذي يملك وحده حق منح الشرعية أو حجبها، وسوابقه في 25 يناير 2011، ثم 30 يونيو 2013 شاهد على ذلك.

إن مقدمات ثورة 25 يناير 2011 كانت مختلفة بشكل جذري عن اللحظة الراهنة التي تعيشها مصر، فقبل الثورة مباشرة كانت مسارات التغيير السياسي من خلال الانتخابات شبه مستحيلة، بسبب ممارسات التزوير المنهجي التي شهدتها كل الانتخابات في عهد الرئيس الأسبق حسني مبارك، وقد كانت انتخابات البرلمان في نهاية 2010 بمثابة القشة التي قصمت ظهر البعير، بعدما مارس قادة الحزب الوطني وبعض أجهزة الدولة المتواطئة معهم التزوير وتزييف إرادة الناخبين على نطاق واسع، وأقصوا الأصوات المعارضة تمامًا عن المشهد السياسي، فيما بدا وكأنه تمهيد لتوريث السلطة لنجل الرئيس الأسبق من خلال برلمان معظم أعضائه موالٍ لم يأتوا بأصوات الناخبين، بل بتدخلات غير مشروعة للسلطة الحاكمة آنذاك.

من ناحية أخرى كان الفساد بجد منتشرًا ولا توجد إرادة سياسية حقيقية لمكافحته ولا حتى آليات لمواجهته.

أضف إلى ذلك مساوئ وعيوب دستور 1971 الذي كان حاكمًا آنذاك، والذي كان مقيدًا الحقوق والحريات العامة، وكان يجعل السلطة التنفيذية متغولة على سلطتي التشريع والقضاء، فضلا عن حالة الطوارئ التي فرضها نظام مبارك طوال فترة حكمه، وأغلق من خلالها المجال العام وصادر العمل المجتمعي ووضع الآلاف في المعتقلات دون محاكمة عادلة ودون أي اعتبار لقرارات جهاز النيابة العامة والأجهزة القضائية المعنية.

أما مساحة العمل الحزبي فقد كانت مغلقة بالضبة والمفتاح أمام أي تنظيم سياسي جاد، حيث حرم الملايين من حقهم في تكوين الأحزاب والانضمام إليها، ووضعت مسئولية إشهار الأحزاب وحلها في يد لجنة يديرها قادة الحزب الوطني، وبالتالي فقد منعوا وصول أي تنظيم حزبي جاد لمقاعد المنافسين، وحجبوا الشرعية عن أي مجموعة حاولت تكوين حزب رافض دور الكومبارس في المسرحية السياسية التي لعبها مبارك ونظامه على مدى 30 عامًا.

فهل من العدل والإنصاف مقارنة هذه المقدمات التي ما كان المصريون ليتخلصوا منها بغير الثورة، بحقائق المشهد الحالي المختلف جذريًا عما كان ؟

فالواقع الحالي يشهد بأن التغيير من خلال الانتخابات أصبح أمرا متاحا، وحتى مع وجود سلبيات طفيفة في العملية الانتخابية، فإنها أبدا لم تنتج عن تدخلات سلبية للسلطة، والدولة أثبتت حيادها التام والمطلق خلال ثلاثة استفتاءات دستورية، ومرتين لانتخاب رئيس الجمهورية ومرتين لانتخابات البرلمان، وبالتالي فالتغيير من خلال الصندوق أصبح مرهونًا بإرادة الناس وليس إرادة الحاكم.

كما أن محاربة الفساد أصبح لها مكانتها في الخطاب السياسي الرسمي للرئيس وحكومته، والأحداث التي شهدناها خلال العام ونصف العام الماضى خير دليل على ذلك، فالأجهزة الرقابية تتحدث عن وقائع الفساد بلا سقف ولا قيود، ولأول مرة في التاريخ المصري الحديث يتم تقديم وزير للمحاكمة بتهمة الفساد، وهناك استراتيجية وطنية معلنة لمكافحة الفساد، وبالتالي فالإرادة متوفرة لمحاربته حتى لو كانت وقائع الفساد ما زالت باقية وبارزة.

والدستور الذي نعيش في إطاره حاليًا يصون الحقوق والحريات، ويعبر بشكل واضح عن تطلعات وآمال وأحلام المصريين، وحالة الطوارئ والقوانين الاستثنائية ولت بلا رجعة، ولم تلجأ إليها السلطة رغم ما تواجهه من إرهاب منظم وغير تقليدي.

وأما تكوين الأحزاب فقد أصبح بالإخطار، ولدينا على الساحة حاليا ما يزيد على 100 حزب سياسي منها 44 شاركت في آخر انتخابات برلمانية، ومعظمها يعمل بحرية مطلقة في الشارع دون أي قيود.

في ضوء هذه المقارنة العادلة والموضوعية تفتقد الدعوة ثورة جديدة مبرراتها المنطقية، وتصبح جزءًا من عملية فوضى يريدها أصحاب الدعوة شاملة وعامة، لكن دعاة الفوضى تناسوا أن الشارع أكثر إدراكًا وذكاءً منهم، ورده على دعوتهم في 25 يناير 2016 سيكون خير دليل على ذلك.

Reading through Egyptian parliamentary elections

The first phase of the Egyptian parliamentary elections ended but its implications and repercussions are not over yet. The societal debate about its positives and negatives will remain in place for weeks to come at least. The most important thing is that this debate is free of traditional accusations that characterised the elections prior the 25 January Revolution in 2011.

The state’s biases and its interventions and the facts of fraud and systematic manipulation are no longer the subject of criticism, especially since the revolution watershed such practices.

The controversial point now is the behaviour of candidates and the impact of irregularities committed by many of them on the electoral results. The most important point is the low turnout rates during the first phase, with only 26% turnout of all potential voters, according to the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC).

It is very low turnout, compared to the presidential elections in May 2014 or the parliamentary elections held by in 2012. However, it is much higher than the rates before the 25 January Revolution. This opened the door to a community debate over the justifications and the motives of that meagre participation. Did voters boycott the elections? Or are there other motives than political justifications?

Let us recognise that the turnout and participation rates were very low and they are not commensurate with the importance of the next parliament or the requirements of this delicate phase in Egypt. Considering the low turnout is a result of a boycotting campaign is illogical and contradicts several objectives, undermining the basis of this proposal.

The first stage of Egypt’s parliamentary elections saw partisan participation with 44 political parties in the electoral process and candidates competing for the individual and list seats. Most parties were formed following the 25 January Revolution and many oppose the current regime. Parties’ candidates accounted for more than 34% of the total number of candidates during the first phase and parties won over 50% of the seats.

Previous figures clearly indicate that the political forces and party actors, except for those of the Muslim Brotherhood, did not boycott the elections or call for a boycott campaign. Therefore, the low turnout was not the result of political action and cannot be defined as boycotting. It is simply an Egyptian reluctance to participate in the elections, a behaviour which will take a relatively long time to change, and will need double effort of from political parties, the media, and civil society organisations to raise awareness and motivate people to get involved.

The low participation is due the negative role played by the media prior to the elections. There was a clear shortage in raising the issue of the parliamentary elections to their importance and the media was often more interested in other trivial issues.

Low participation in the elections overshadowed other positive features witnessed during the first phase of the elections. For the first time in many years, five women won individual seats without the application of quota. Three Coptic Christians also won seats in districts crowded with Muslims.

The rise of women and Copts in the first phase of the Egyptian parliamentary elections carries positive signs that a significant change has occurred in the attitudes and motivations of Egyptians voters. The chain of sectarianism and bias against women is close to breaking, taking into account that women and Copts won seats in poor traditional districts.

Ayman Okeil is the General Manager of Cairo-based NGO, the Maat Foundation for Peace, Development and Human Rights

إقالة الحكومة وحرص الرئيس على نزاهة الانتخابات البرلمانية

أيمن عقيل

لأول مرة في التاريخ السياسي المصري تتم إقالة وزير، ثم حكومة كاملة بسبب قضية فساد، فرغم أنها ليست المرة الأولى التي تتهم فيها حكومة ما بارتكاب جريمة الفساد أو التستر على مرتكبيها، فتاريخ الحكومات في مصر قبل ثورة يناير 2011 يشهد عشرات الوقائع، فإن تعامل القيادة السياسية مع القضية هذه المرة جاء مختلفًا ومتجاوزًا لكل ما اعتدنا عليه على مدى الأعوام الــ60 الماضية.

فقد شهد منتصف الأسبوع الماضي إجبار وزير الزراعة على الإقالة ليتم القبض عليها بعدها بدقائق وعلى بعد 100 متر من مقر مجلس الوزراء كمتهم في قضية فشاد ضخمة بوزارته، متورط فيها رسميًا– وفقًا لبيان النيابة العامة- رجل أعمال شهير وشخص محسوب على الوسط الإعلامي، ومدير مكتب الوزير المقال، بالإضافة بالطبع إلى الوزير نفسه، وبعدها بأقل من أربعة أيام تجبر الوزارة بكاملها على تقديم استقالتها ليتم تكليف وزير لم يتورط في قضايا أو شبهات فساد “وزير البترول المهندس شريف إسماعيل” بتشكيل حكومة جديدة خلال أسبوع.

بلا شك نحن إزاء طريقة جديدة في معالجة قضايا الفساد، الرئيس عبد الفتاح السيسي أكد بقراراته الأخيرة أنه غير متسامح مع الفساد كظاهرة وكفعل، وأنه لن ينحاز لأي اعتبارات أخرى طالما جرم الفساد أو التستر عليه أو التهاون في محاربته حاضر في المشهد، وربما تجدر الإشارة إلى عدة نقاط مهمة في موقف وقرارات الرئيس:

أولا: الرئيس لم يتردد في إقالة ومحاسبة وزير هو مسئول بشكل أو بآخر عن اختياره، وبالتالي هو لم يكابر فيما كان يكابر فيه مسئولون كثيرون في مصر سابقًا.

ثانيا: الرئيس يقيل الحكومة أثناء إجراء الانتخابات البرلمانية التي بدأت أولى مراحلها بداية سبتمبر 2015، ومن المتوقع لها أن تنتهي بنهاية نوفمبر 2015، وعلى الرغم من أن الحكومة ستستقيل بنص الدستور عقب انتخاب البرلمان، فإن الرئيس لم ينتظر هذه الفترة الوجيزة واتخذ قراره بإقالة الحكومة فورا، وهو ما يعد رسالة قوية مفادها أن الانتخابات ليست مبررًا للصبر على مسئول متورط –أو مشتبه في تورطه– في قضايا فساد.

ثالثا: وهي النقطة الأهم، أن الرئيس بقراره هذا يرسل رسالة واضحة تؤكد حرصه على نزاهة الانتخابات البرلمانية القادمة، فالرجل لم يترك حكومة مشكوكًا في نزاهة بعض وزرائها، تدير العملية الانتخابية في السنوات الأخيرة، وهي نقطة بكل تأكيد تحسب للرئيس، وفي نفس الوقت تطمئن قطاعًا واسعًا من المعنيين والمنخرطين في الشأن الانتخابي “أحزاب ومرشحين ومنظمات محلية ودولية”.

إن الفساد لا يقل خطورة بحال من الأحوال عن الإرهاب، فكلاهما يقوض جهود التنمية، ويضع حقوق الإنسان على المحك، ويسطو على حق المجتمع وحقوق أفراده، لذا فإن قوة الدولة في محاربة الفساد -والتي تجلت في الإجراءات الأخيرة للرئيس وللأجهزة الرقابية- هي الوجه الآخر الذي يتكامل مع قوتها في محاربة الإرهاب المستمرة منذ ما يزيد على عامين، وكما أن القوى السياسية ومنظمات المجتمع المدني والإعلام يدركون أهمية الاصطفاف لمواجهة الإرهاب، عليهم أن يدركوا أيضًا أهمية الاصطفاف لمواجهة الفساد ومساعدة الرئيس على اقتلاع جذوره.

Civil society and the challenges of the law

Civil society was one of the key actors in the Egyptian political and social movement, witnessed during the last 10 years. This movement led to two great revolutionary waves on 25 January, 2011, and 30 June, 2013. The first one was against a corrupt system that came through rigged elections. The second was against a regime that was freely elected, but did not abide by the rules of democracy, and instead chose dictatorship and violence against its political rivals.

Since the launch of the protest movements in the middle of the first decade of the new millennium, civil society has been supportive of them and has defended the citizens’ rights to peaceful protests and to freely establish political parties and groups. It also had a major role in strengthening calls for rights and public liberties, which was the main demand of the public protest movement.

Following the 25 January Revolution, Egyptian civil society was met with accusations, mostly without any convincing evidence, and a negative media rhetoric was employed against civil society organisations, their role, and the legitimacy of their funding. This rhetoric merged some truths with untruths, but it fostered a distorted stereotype of civil society organisations and their role in the Egyptian political and social movement.

Despite this, civil society organisations managed to add a progressive article in the Constitution of 2014, as Article 75 stipulates that citizens have the right to establish national associations and institutions on a democratic basis. The article guarantees their right to obtain legal status, and banned administrative authorities from interfering in their affairs or dissolving them, their boards of directors or boards of trustees without a court verdict.

This constitutional text was a triumph for civil society organisations. However, the foremost challenge now is to convert this text into laws and regulatory procedures. This will be followed by the need to rehabilitate the administrative authorities to act upon this legislative philosophy that will govern civil society organisations, and finally adapt those organisations to function in accordance with the law.

The first two challenges require true political will, whether in the executive or legislative authorities to be elected within the next few months. In addition, they require more pressure and engagement in the process of legislation development from civil society organisations, as well as developing the role these organisations can play in training and building the capabilities of executives after the approval of these legislations.

The third challenge, concerning civil society organisations’ adaptation to function in accordance with the new legislations, depends primarily on the presence of adequate will and desire within the organisations themselves to work in the framework of the law.

If the reasons that have forced human rights activists to register their organisations as civil companies to escape from the ire of the current law are understandable and perhaps justified, these reasons would not be acceptable under the new pending law. This is especially in light of the fact that the “confused” legal status of these organisations provided an opportunity for anti-civil society forces to challenge their credibility and patriotism.

Ayman Okeil is General Manager of Cairo-based NGO MAAT for Peace, Development and Human Rights

NGOs accuse state of corruption, but we don’t look at ourselves: Maat GM

Ayman Okeil discusses postponed elections, and internal politics among Egyptian NGOs

Maat for Peace, Development and Human Right has been working in Egypt since 2005 and officially registered as an NGO in 2008. Surviving and growing in an environment that has been rather restrictive on civil society, Maat is also working in partnership with the Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) based in Norway, and the International Institute for Peace, Justice and Human Rights (IIPJHR) based in Switzerland. They had planned the biggest observation mission for the expected parliamentary elections, made upof over 1,000 local and 158 international observers from 31 states.

Daily News Egypt spoke to Ayman Okeil, General Manager of Maat, on the current political and human rights situation, in addition to the discussion about the parliament and the work of civil society in Egypt.

As a regular participant in international events, what is the situation of human rights in Egypt and how is it viewed abroad, for example in the UN Human Rights Council’s sessions in Geneva?

Let’s admit that there are human rights’ violations from 2011 until now in Egypt, but we also have to take into consideration the factors affecting this period, such as the number of protests, road obstruction incidents, attacks, explosions, etc. With all of this happening, surely there are violations. Amid clashes between people on the streets and police forces, as hard as it is to tell which party is to blame. It is undeniable that there are victims, killings and tortures in police stations. But again, I cannot hold one party fully responsible because it is a process of wrong actions and reactions. Both sides might be convinced they are right.

How is the performance of Egyptian speakers on the situation of human rights?

As a civil society activist, I cannot discuss human rights’ issues from one perspective only. I must admit that there is a crisis that has to be solved. In Geneva, there was an opposition voice against the abuse of the military regime, but their speech ignored the other side.

My point is if we are aligned on the fact that what happened in 30 June 2013 was a military coup d’état, or that the Protest Law must be abolished, we must ensure the proper means to counter those violations, or else we are just wasting our rights. In other words, the police has more weapons than citizens, so is protesting the best way to reject the Protest Law, or will it lead to more damage than advantages? Looking at the numbers of killings and imprisonments, this strategy has obviously not worked.

Another problem for human rights’ advocates is the political speech they use, which does not serve their cause, using words like “political detainees” and playing more the role of opposition political activists than civil society.

Did their reports get attention in Geneva? On the contrary; Egypt “passed the test” in the Universal Periodic Review. This was thanks to Egyptian diplomacy. Why? Because the UN Human Rights’ Council is not an institution that can implement punishment. They can only produce recommendations. Egypt played it smart by accepting some recommendations, discussing and negotiating, and the result was that its final official report was approved. In comparison, other human rights’ reports were not recognised or influential. Even when they talked about the killing of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, the response was that “legal measures have been undertaken by the Prosecutor General”. Thus, getting back a right is a skill and conferring the issue must be properly done.

Do we have a problem with our civil society organisations?

Yes, because some of them undertake a political pressuring role against the government, which makes it impossible to work together towards progress. We also exchange accusations when one of us works with the government. But I tell them, yes, sometimes I have to negotiate with the other party to get results, unlike some who were unable to achieve anything for the citizens, now either live in fear and oppression or outside the country, uselessly.

Isn’t the state oppressing NGOs, especially those working in human rights?

It is a circle. As I told you, it depends on how you approach the state and tackle issues. For instance, the difference between my approach and somebody else’s would be how we discuss the same problem. I will try to make my point, for instance, by stating and proving a torture case. The government will deny it. The other organisations would not even sit with the government, and speak of systematic torture of prisoners, attack the state in their speeches. They reach a dead end and the state does not want them to work anymore, exchanging accusations of foreign conspiracy agendas. On the other hand, the state must amend the NGOs law.

Indeed, how do you view this new draft law regulating NGOs and other independent entities? Some claimed it is going be yet another form of subordination to direct state monitoring, financial and security control?

I don’t agree. I think that one of the positive points of the law is that there will be a defined specialised committee approving or rejecting my projects, giving me a chance to appeal their decision before court. It also stipulates that an NGO is established with prior notification to the Ministry of Solidarity, which eases bureaucratic procedures. As for the part where we have to submit to monitoring, I don’t see a problem as long as I have nothing to hide. I mean, before that NGOs were oppressed and denied authorisations without knowing “who” was behind it, and we knew it was National Security. Now things will be on the table, with clearly stated reasons for the rejection.

How about bringing NGO workers to questioning and trials, as in the infamous case of 2011?

Maat was investigated during that event then released. The state is entitled to know where the money I am receiving from foreign sources is going. But let me tell you something else, it is sometimes us – civil society workers – who work against each other, file reports about each other, because it’s a highly competitive environment and we know each other’s “dirty business.” We pretend we are transparent but we’re not always so. We accuse the state of corruption, but we don’t look at ourselves.

Meanwhile, how would you assess the situation regarding parliamentary elections, the political environment, and the security condition in the country?

Parliamentary elections are late, even when first announced to take place last March, because the Supreme Electoral Commission (SEC) also delayed the announcement of the candidates’ registration. Obviously, the decision-making seemed troubled. Also, the laws organising parliamentary elections were controversial, and were debated for a long time. Many political factions rejected them, and the surprise was when the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) decided the non-constitutionality of the law regarding the division of electoral districts, less than a month before elections were due to start. What happened was a serious mistake. Now we are ‘indefinitely’ waiting for legal amendments.

President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi gave the committee in charge of drafting a new law one month, but here we are without progress yet. And I believe once the law comes out, there will be new appeals against it. We are in front of a very long process where the structure of the upcoming parliament depends on new candidates who will run this time. Political parties are divided between those who claim they were not considered for social dialogue and those who participated, despite that most of their suggestions were not used by the committee.

From January to April, and despite the halt of the elections, we – as a civil society organisation working with the International Observatory Mission – chose to observe political and social, economic and security changes in Egypt, which like parliamentary elections, are all components of the transitional period. We are focused on events related to violence and terrorism and their influence on the electoral process. We observed that over time, armed groups’ increased attacks on civilians and public facilities, especially as we got closer to the Economic Summit held in mid-March. We believe in a strong correlation between our variables, on the hypothesis that if citizens feel unsafe on the streets, they are not likely to put their lives in danger in order to vote for parliament.

In your opinion, why are we unable to get it right concerning parliamentary laws?

All the legislators are constitutional experts and sometimes there is no one right way, but rather various opinions which could be correct as well. However, we are in difficult political times and many factions aspire to political power and are in conflict with each other. Each party is watching the other, catching their mistakes, and that is why any issued law will remain at risk of non-constitutionality. The SCC’s work under pressure results in flawed decisions.

Amid those political conflicts and disagreements among parties, some claimed the state directly interfered with electoral coalitions.

So they claim, but I think that is not the issue here. The real problem we need to address is what do citizens need? The basic citizen’s need is to survive. So security and bread are the most important things, and dignity is on many occasions irrelevant. Start speaking to them about democracy, freedoms and those concepts, they will not show the slightest interest. But tell them you’re a dictator and at the same time give them a satisfying monthly amount of money, they will be happy. These people’s top wishes are to be able to feed their families. They don’t have any higher ambitions.

The public has become a guinea pig for different political regimes, yet did not see changes. Anybody who is going to speak in the name of democracy is not going to be appealing anymore to citizens, who only want to hear about economic growth and social development. Try to compare the limited or conditioned attendance of people to an educational seminar, and on the other hand their arrival hours early to an event which involves the distribution of free or very cheap products, such as school books. If a president wants the people to call his name, he should focus on social and economic rights, rather than political and civil rights.

Do you not think that in order to improve economic and social rights, there needs to be a democratic environment where corruption is not widespread, as well as guarantees that those rights are delivered on one hand, and accountability for failures on the other?

These two files are the main ones the agendas of civil society organisations. Some, and I was among them, claim that political and civil rights are more important than economic and social. We argued that in a democratic nation, transfer of power and a parliament representative of people’s will is the key to success. The other opinion places economic and social rights at the centre. A decent life, a satisfying income, health, education and so on, should pave the way for a democratic environment.

I personally tried to find a balance in between, which is based on a human rights approach, meaning that the two issues should progress in parallel, none of them should be less important than the other.

I believe that the neglect of economic and social rights is a weapon used by those in power to keep people’s ambitions at the lowest possible point. If people become economically and socially happy, they are going to seek more political rights. But when you have to work all day to earn a minimum living, you do not have time to think about powers, torture, freedom and so on. If the regime wants a democratic transition, it will care more about people’s rights to a decent economic and social status. Bear in mind that if any uprisings are on the rise, it is not going to be a revolution, but war.

Maat’s relationship with the state is to share interests, not oppose them to the well-being of the citizen. As so we don’t start by pressuring the government, but looking to help them. If they reject this help, we will turn it into pressure for them to execute.

You have had international experience over time in elections’ observations, especially in the Arab world. What are the differences and similarities with Egypt?

Indeed, I was in Sudan, Tunisia, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco. Each country has its situation. In Jordan, for example, the voters’ database is nearly four million people in comparison to Egypt with over 50 million. But at a time when we still depended on paper, Jordan was much more advanced in technological use during elections, such as digital voters’ registration. Egypt started realising many of the things that kept it behind other countries, such as establishing a permanent independent electoral commissioner in charge of the elections, in Jordan called the Independent High Electoral Commission.