Friday, April 6, 2012

Did Egypt Sign The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights?

Egypt signed the ICCPR treaty in 1967 and ratified it in 1982. The treaty commits its parties to respect civil and political rights of all individuals which include, freedom of religion, right to life, freedom of speech, electoral rights, freedom of assembly and rights to a due process on fair trial. However, in reality it meant absolutely nothing as in the past  30 years all kinds of violations were committed by Egypt and most signatories. 

Egypt's ratification of the ICCPR came with this interesting declaration:

... Taking into consideration the provisions of the Islamic Sharia and the fact that they do not conflict with the text annexed to the instrument, we accept, support and ratify it ... .

This "declaration" shows how Sharia law, even back in 1982, was used as an excuse to avoid compliance with articles on civil and political rights. 

Why I'm posting about the ICCPR today? 

Elliot Abrams on CFR reminds Egypt that it signed the ICCPR and that by sentencing Gamal Abdou Massoud, a 17-year-old Christian boy to three years in jail for publishing cartoons on his Facebook page that mocked Islam and the Prophet Mohammad, is violating its obligations under the treaty.  

Like Abrams I'm saddened and disgusted that freedom of expression is curtailed in Egypt and that a kid is going to prison for childish posts on Facebook. Saying that, to use the ICCPR articles to criticize Egypt is an extremely weak argument given that many countries signed the treaty with a long list of reservations, interpretation and declarations making its impact minimal. 

In the United States for instance the treaty is rendered "ineffective" as it has not accepted a single international obligation required under the Covenant and didn't not change its domestic law to conform with the strictures of the Covenant. 

Egypt on the other hand, used the "Sharia" language to sign and later ratify the treaty but in reality made the whole treaty "ineffective" and the Egyptian court will, unfortunately, use Sharia to justify its ruling.

Image: L. Patzer