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“Repeal or amend without delay the Assembly Law of November 2013,” Turkey recommended to Egypt at its Universal Periodic Review by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on 5 November 2014.

Turkey was joined by more than 10 member states recommending that Egypt revise Act No. 107/2013 on the Right to Public Meetings and Peaceful Assemblies, which is responsible for the ongoing detention of human rights defenders in Egypt since the law was passed last year.

Recommendations by other UN member states reflected statements by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, international and regional human rights bodies and human rights groups denouncing the unlawful detention of human rights defenders, violations of peaceful assembly, and hostile environment for civil society organisations.

A group of human rights organisations in Egypt decided not to participate in the review, for fear that their participation might result in reprisal or persecution. On 10 November, the government’s ultimatum for “non-registered entities” to register under Law 84/2002 expired. This repressive law gives power to the government to shut down any group, freeze its assets, confiscate its property, reject nominees to its governing board, block its funding, or deny requests to affiliate with international organisations.

Egypt also received advanced questions on the human rights situation in the country, including questions from Liechtenstein on the establishment of an independent oversight mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability of communications surveillance policies and practices. The lack of oversight and protections of privacy were detailed in a report submitted to the review by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Privacy International and APC.

Legislative changes to protect human rights were also a focus at the review of Iraq, which took place on 3 November. While many recommending states chose to make “soft” recommendations to Iraq during the review, European countries were among the most vocal in recommending strong legal protections for human rights:

“Adopt the necessary legislation and policies in order to combat violence against women” (Romania).

“Revise the existing legislation, in particular the ‘Protection of Journalists Law number 21’ with a view to remove all restrictions on the freedom of the press and to ensure full protection of journalists and other media-workers” (Denmark).

Strong legal protections for vulnerable groups were among the many recommendations made by coalitions of civil society organisations working to address the root causes of the current crisis in Iraq.

Before the review, APC supported the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) to brief member states and the international community on the most pressing human rights concerns in the country, including the right to water and the repeal of the draft Jaafari law, which would have allowed for marital rape and the marriage of girls as young as nine.

During the review, the delegation from Iraq stated that the draft Jaafari law had been withdrawn, committing to implement a national strategy against violence and recommendations by CEDAW.

As Egypt and Iraq now decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations that were received at their reviews, the international community must support local civil society groups to hold these governments accountable and demand the implementation of commitments for the protection of human rights.

For more information about APC’s work at the Universal Periodic Review: