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Statement on Egypt – Human Rights Council – 25th Session

19 March 2014

General Debate – item 4

Human Rights Council, 25th Session, 3-28 March 2014
Statement given by Glenn Payot, Geneva Representative, MRG

Mr. President,

Minority Rights Group (MRG) would like to draw the attention of the Council to the situation of religious minorities in Egypt. We would like to address three pressing issues in that respect.

The first of these issues is the persistent absence of legal recognition of certain religious minorities, despite constitutional guarantee of absolute freedom of religion. The most prominent example is the situation of the Baha’i community. While personal status issues in Egypt are informed by religious rather than civil law, this recognition only extends to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, not the Bahá’í faith. This means that many aspects of the lives of Bahá’í adherents, such as marriage, divorce and family relationships, are not recognized by the state. Their official ‘invisibility’ has also had a profound impact on their ability to participate in civil and political life.

The second issue is the continuing sectarian violence that exists in a climate of impunity. Copts in Egypt constantly face sectarian violence with the arson and destruction of Christian churches. Importantly, this long-term pattern of violence against churches has also occurred against a backdrop of institutionalized discrimination against Egypt’s Christian community. These include stringent restrictions on the construction and renovation of churches, typically involving a slow and arbitrary process of official review and approval, in contrast to the more lenient and often unenforced regulations on the building of mosques.

And finally, the rise of hate speech and hate crime against religious minorities in Egypt. Hate speech remains a prominent issue in the post-revolutionary context. Besides demeaning minority groups and reinforcing negative stereotypes, hate speech can also directly contribute to violent attacks, including the murder of four Shi’a in Greater Cairo in June 2013.

To conclude, MRG welcomes the joint statement read by Iceland as a positive first step, we call on the Council to give the situation of minorities in Egypt the attention it deserves and we call on Egypt to address these pressing issues, in cooperation with minority representatives.