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    MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt

    15.7.2014 - (2014/2728(RSP))

    with request for inclusion in the agenda for a debate on cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law
    pursuant to Rule 135 of the Rules of Procedure

    Josef Weidenholzer, Victor Boştinaru, Pier Antonio Panzeri, Marc Tarabella, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, Liisa Jaakonsaari, Goffredo Maria Bettini, Michela Giuffrida, Corina Creţu, Demetris Papadakis on behalf of the S&D Group

    See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-0007/2014

    NB: This motion for a resolution is available in the original language only.
    Postupak : 2014/2728(RSP)
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    European Parliament resolution on freedom of expression and assembly in Egypt


    The European Parliament,

    - having regard to its previous resolutions on Egypt, in particular that of 6 February 2014 on the situation in Egypt,


    - having regard to its resolution of 23 October 2013 on the European Neighbourhood Policy: towards a strengthening of the partnership. Position of the European Parliament on the 2012 reports,


    - having regard to its resolution of 13 June 2013 on the freedom of press and media in the world,


    - having regard to Council conclusions on Egypt of 10 February 2014,


    - having regard to the declaration on behalf of the European Union on the presidential elections in Egypt of 5 June 2014,


    - having regard to the preliminary statement of the European Union Election Observation Mission for the Presidential Elections in Egypt of 29 May 2014,


    - having regard to the declaration of the Head of the European Parliament Delegation to the EU Election Observation Mission for the Presidential Elections in Egypt of 29 May 2014,


    - having regard to the EU-Egypt Association Agreement of 2001, which entered into force in 2004, strengthened by the Action Plan of 2007, and to the Commission’s progress report on its implementation of 20 March 2013,


    - having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948,


    - having regard to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966, to which Egypt is a party,


    - having regard to the Constitution of Egypt, in particular to Articles 65, 73, 75, and 155,


    - having regard to the Egyptian Law 107 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations of 24 November 2013 (Protest Law),


    - having regard to Rule 135 (2) of its Rules of Procedure,






    A. whereas violations of fundamental freedoms and human rights – including violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation and censorship against political opponents, peaceful protesters, journalists, bloggers, trade unionists and civil society activists by state authorities, security forces and services, and other groups – continue to be widespread in Egypt; whereas the freedoms of association, assembly and expression remain areas of particular concern; whether at least six journalists have been killed in Egypt since July 2013; whereas Egypt is rated as ‘not free’ by the 2014 Freedom in the World report of the Freedom House;


    B. whereas thousands of protesters and prisoners of conscience have been detained in Egypt since the military coup of July 2013; whereas arrests and cases of arbitrary detention have continued since the election of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi in May 2014; whereas, on 11 June 2014, a court decision sentenced Alla Abdel Fattah, a prominent activist who played a leading role in the 2011 revolution, and others to fifteen years of imprisonment on charges of violating Law 107 on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations of 2013 (Protest Law); whereas other prominent activists, including Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, Mahienour El-Massry and Ahmed Maher, as well as leading women’s rights defenders, such as Yara Sallam and Sana Seif, continue to be detained;


    C. whereas Article 65 of the Egyptian Constitution declares that the freedom of thought and opinion is guaranteed, and that every person shall have the right to express his or her opinion verbally, in writing, through imagery, or by any other means of expression and publication; whereas, in its preliminary statement, the EU Election Observation Mission for the Presidential Elections in Egypt of May 2014 said that although the new Constitution set out a wide-ranging catalogue of fundamental rights, the respect for these rights fell short of the constitutional principles, and that a general climate of limited freedom of expression, leading to self-censorship of journalists, could be observed in the country;


    D. whereas, on 23 June 2014, after five months of court proceedings which had lacked the basic requirements of free and fair trial, Al Jazeera journalists Baher Mohamed, Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy were sentenced to seven to ten years in prison, while other journalists were sentenced to imprisonment in absentia, on charges of aiding the banned Muslim Brotherhood; whereas international observers, including the embassies of some EU Member States, attended this trial; whereas President al-Sisi recently acknowledged that these verdicts had negative consequences and said that he wished the accused had been deported immediately after their arrest instead of being put on trial; whereas these sentences can be appealed in a process that can take months;


    E. whereas Article 73 of the Egyptian Constitution declares that citizens shall have the right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protests, without carrying arms of any kind, by serving a notification as regulated by law, and that the right to peaceful and private assembly is guaranteed without need for prior notification, while security forces may not attend, monitor or eavesdrop on such meetings; whereas, however, the Protest Law, which places arbitrary limitations on the right to peaceful assembly and allows repression, continues to provoke widespread and strong criticism both within Egypt and in the international community; whereas this law contradicts the right to freedom of assembly and the Constitution, and restricts the right of Egyptians to express their opinion freely in public;


    F. whereas peaceful protests have been dispersed and many protesters have been arrested and detained under the Protest Law over the past months; whereas, on 21 June 2014, the police dispersed in Heliopolis a peaceful march demanding the repeal of the Protest Law and the release of those detained under this law, and arrested more than fifty people in connection with this event on the same day; whereas more than twenty of them continue to be detained and face a trial;


    G. whereas Article 75 of the Egyptian Constitution declares that all citizens shall have the right to form non-governmental associations and foundations on democratic basis, which shall acquire legal personality upon notification, and that such associations and foundations shall have the right to practice their activities freely, while administrative agencies may not interfere in their affairs, or dissolve them or their boards save by a court judgment; whereas, however, 29 NGOs issued a statement on 9 July 2014 in protest against a new bill put forth by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, which would severely restrict the operations of local and foreign civil society organisations in Egypt by allowing state authorities to interfere with their internal affairs, object and cancel their decisions, rule on any foreign funding, and by expanding potential grounds for their legal dissolution;


    H. whereas hundreds of supporters of former President Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death or imprisonment over the past months in Egypt; whereas, on 21 June 2014, an Egyptian court confirmed the death sentences of 183 Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters convicted in an earlier mass trial; whereas UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called mass trials and death penalty convictions in Egypt “obscene and a complete travesty of justice”;


    I. whereas these cases cast serious doubts on the independence of the Egyptian judiciary and its ability to ensure that judicial proceedings in the country meet the universal requirements of free and fair trial;

    J. whereas Article 155 of the Egyptian Constitution declares that, after consultation with the Cabinet, the President of the Republic may issue a pardon, or reduce a sentence;


    K.  whereas, in its conclusions of 21 August 2013, the Foreign Affairs Council tasked HR/VP Catherine Ashton to review, in cooperation with the Commission, the EU’s assistance to Egypt under the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and the EU-Egypt Association Agreement; whereas partnership with societies, an incentive-based approach, and the principle of “more for more”, and eventually “less for less”, are cornerstones of the Union’s reviewed ENP; whereas Article 2 of the EU-Egypt Association Agreement declares that “relations between the Parties, as well as the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect of democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Declaration of Human Rights, which guide their internal and international policy and constitutes and essential element of this Agreement”; whereas, in her statement of 11 January 2014, VPC/HR Catherine Ashton declared that ”dignity, social justice, security, democracy, human rights, and a better economy remain the goals the EU stands by Egypt to achieve”;




    1. Condemns strongly and calls for an immediate end to all acts of violence, incitement, hate speech, harassment, intimidation or censorship against political opponents, protesters, journalists, bloggers, trade unionists and civil society activists by state authorities, security forces and services, and other groups in Egypt; reminds the Egyptian government of its responsibility to ensure the security and safety of all citizens irrespective of their political views, affiliation or confession, and to guarantee that the freedoms of assembly, association and expression can be exercised without arbitrary limitations and censorship in the country;


    2. Calls for an end to the politicisation of court cases and for the requirements of free and fair trial to be respected in all court proceedings in Egypt; urges the President to act without delay, including through his constitutional right to grant pardon, in order to ensure that no death sentence is executed and that no one can be detained in Egypt with a verdict issued in a court procedure that does not meet these requirements; calls on Egyptian authorities to declare a moratorium on executions, as a first step towards the abolition of capital punishment;


    3. Calls for the release without delay of all prisoners of conscience in custody, including political opponents of the regime, peaceful protesters, journalists, bloggers, trade unionists, and civil society activists, in Egypt; reiterates its call for prompt, independent, serious and impartial investigations into cases of disproportionate use of force against or arbitrary detention of them by security forces and state authorities, and for those responsible to be held accountable;


    4. Reiterates its call on the Egyptian government to guarantee that domestic and foreign journalists, bloggers, trade unions and civil society organisations can operate freely, without government interference, in the country;


    5. Calls on the Egyptian President and government to repeal or amend the Protest Law and to review the new NGO bill presented by the Ministry of Social Solidarity, in line with Articles 65, 73 and 75 of the Egyptian Constitution, international standards, and the country’s international obligations, as well as to ensure that all existing and future legislation in the country be in compliance with the Constitution and these standards and obligations;


    6. Stresses the importance of the separation of powers as a fundamental principle of democracy and that the judiciary cannot be used as an instrument of political persecution and repression; calls on the Egyptian judiciary to ensure that all court proceedings in the country meet the requirements of free and fair trial, including clear charges and the right to legal assistance;


    7. Encourages representatives of the EU Delegation and embassies of EU Member States in Cairo to attend politically sensitive trials of Egyptian and foreign journalists, bloggers, trade unionists and civil society activists in the country;


    8. Expresses again its strong solidarity with the Egyptian people in the current period of troubled transition in their country; continues to believe that Egypt should not slide back into military autocracy but create deep and sustainable democracy based on political stability, solid democratic institutions, including an independent and reliable judiciary, full respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, and a vibrant and pluralistic public sphere and civil society; calls on the Council, the HR/VP and the Commission to take into consideration all these factors and the principle of conditionality (‘more for more’), together with the serious economic and social challenges Egypt is facing, in the Union’s bilateral relations with and its financial support to the country; reiterates its call for clear and jointly agreed benchmarks in this regard;


    9. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the parliaments and governments of the Member States, and the President and Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt.