Civil society Organizations Warn of Potential Rigging of Constitutional Referendum, Demand that NCHR be Excluded from Referendum Monitoring and Oversight of Civil Society

Source: Tahrir News

Joint Statement

12 Dec 2012

The undersigned organizations are deeply concerned about the potential for rigging during or after the referendum on the proposed draft constitution, especially after the press conference convened today by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), at which it was announced that organizations seeking to monitor the vote must obtain authorization from the Council. The undersigned groups further reject the NCHR as a custodian over civil society organizations.

The undersigned organizations warn that the climate in which the referendum is being conducted does not bode well for a fair voting process. First, the formation of the constituent assembly was dominated by particular political groups and failed to represent all segments and political forces of Egyptian society. Second, the final version of the draft constitution was rushed through a hasty vote which did not allow adequate time for an appropriate nation-wide discussion to take place.

Currently, the NCHR is attempting to monopolize civil society’s efforts to monitor the referendum, despite the fact that the council lacks impartiality and does not even meet minimum professional standards as its members do not seem to believe in the basic principles of human rights. Many members of the Council have resigned and criticized the council’s performance, its support for official state positions, and its silence on abuses committed by the Freedom and Justice Party, to which President Morsi belongs. Members who remain on the Council have taken hostile stances to human rights on various occasions, and some of the most prominent members are implicated in human rights violations, including the incitement to hatred of Shiites, Copts, and peaceful protestors who demonstrated in opposition to the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi at the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace.

We also note that the president of the NCHR also served as the president of the constituent assembly and that most members of the NCHR are also members of the Muslim Brotherhood and served as members of the constituent assembly that drafted the constitution being put to a referendum. As such, they are not impartial. For these reasons, the High Elections Commission (HEC) should exclude members of the NCHR from monitoring the referendum and from attempting to impose their oversight on civil society.

The undersigned organizations emphasize that the sole body authorized to issue permits for election monitoring under the law is the HEC, which issued a decree on December 8, 2012 stating that permits issued by the HEC and the Presidential Elections Commission to local and international civil society groups and local and international media to observe the parliamentary elections of 2011/2012 and the presidential elections of 2012 would still be operative under the same rules stipulated in Decree 20/2011 issued by the president of the HEC.

The undersigned organizations affirm that they will monitor the referendum on the constitution based on a court order affirming civil society institutions’ right to monitor elections and based on the decree issued by the HEC declaring the permits issued in 2011 and 2012 still operative. We further urge Egyptian citizens to notify us of any violations observed during the referendum process.

Signatory organizations
1. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
2. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
3. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies.
4. Arab Network for Human Rights Information.
5. Arab Penal Reform Organization.
6. Association for Freedom of Expression and of Thought.
7. Center for Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development (ACT.
8. Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance.
9. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement.
10. Egyptian Association for Supporting Democratic Development.
11. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
12. Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights.
13. Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions.
14. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
15. Group for Democratic Development.
16. Hesham Mubarak Law Center.
17. Nazra for Feminist Studies.
18. New Woman Foundation.
19. One World Foundation for Development & Civil Society Care.
20. Tanweer Center for Development and Human Rights.
21. United Group, Attorneys at Law, Legal Researchers and Human Rights Advocates.