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The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights

EOHR Condemns Arbitrary Measures Against the Labor Party and its Newspaper

21 May 2000

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) expresses its strong =
condemnation of the sudden decision taken on 20 May 2000 by the =
Political Parties Committee (the state body responsible for authorizing =
the formation of political parties in Egypt) to freeze the activities of =
the Labor Party and suspend its newspaper (Al-Sha=B4b). The Committee =
referred to Article 17 of the political parties law, which enables the =
authorities to suspend the activities of any party, including the =
publishing of its newspaper, as a means of stopping any decision or act =
by a party that is contrary to the higher interests of the country. The =
Political Parties Committee is an administrative body established under =
Article 8 of the political parties law. It is, in practice, affiliated =
to the government, since it comprises the head and members of the Shura =
Council (the upper chamber of the parliament) and the ministers of =
justice and the interior and the state minister for People=92s Assembly =
and Shura Council affairs. In addition, it comprises three heads of =
judicial institutions who must not belong to any political party.

This decision comes directly in the wake of a press campaign by =
Al-Sha=B4b condemning the novel, A Banquet for Seaweed, by Syrian writer =
Haydar Haydar. The Labor Party paper accused the Egyptian Ministry of =
Culture, which published the novel, of blasphemy (al-kafr), leading to =
heated demonstrations by Azhar University students.

Other related events include the split within the party ranks, with one =
group led by Mr. Hamdi Ahmad, a member of the party=92s executive =
committee, and the other led by Mr. Ahmad Idris. The Committee, in its =
decision, referred to the official complaint brought by the =
aforementioned individuals concerning the selection of a new party =
chair. The two party members also asked for Al-Sha=B4b to be suspended =
from publication and a freeze to be put on the party=92s bank account. =
Labor Party Chair Ibrahim Shukri described these demands as illegal.

The EOHR believes that the Committee decision to freeze the Labor Party =
represents a gross infringement of party life and democracy in Egypt. In =
addition, the EOHR considers that the suspension of Al-Sha=B4b =
represents a clear violation of the freedom of opinion and expression as =
guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution and the International Covenant =
on Civil and Political Rights, which has been ratified by Egypt. The =
EOHR renews its complete opposition to control by the executive powers, =
through the Political Parties Committee, over party life, whether that =
control takes the form of preventing the formation of new political =
parties or suspending the activities of existing political parties.

 1.. The EOHR condemns the Committee=92s decision and calls for an end =
to administrative interference in political party affairs. It is the =
responsibility of the judiciary to investigate any contraventions of the =

 2.. The EOHR calls on all sides, both the government and political =
parties to refrain from violating rights and freedoms, which only =
weakens the ability of Egypt to face future economic and social =

 3.. Finally, the EOHR calls on the Journalists=92 Syndicate to provide =
social protection for Al-Sha=B4b journalists who are now unemployed.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)
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Fax +20-(2)-3621613

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This document is published online by Derechos Human Rights. Derechos works against violations to human rights and humanitarian law all over the world.