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HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT

 
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About us Home FAQ

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT

 
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About us Home FAQ

HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF JEWS FROM EGYPT

 
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Title:  Egypt Human Rights Practices, 1995  
Author:  U.S. Department of State   
Date:  March 1996   
 
 
                                    EGYPT 
 
According to its constitution, Egypt is a social democracy in which 
Islam is the state religion.  The President, Hosni Mubarak, was 
reelected unopposed to a third 6-year term by the People's Assembly in 
1993.  The President appoints the Cabinet, which is responsible to him.  
His party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), has governed since its 
establishment in 1978.  It commands large majorities in the popularly 
elected People's Assembly and the partially elected Shura (Consultative) 
Council.  Elections for the People's Assembly were held in November.  
The Government reported that 50 percent of registered voters turned out 
to vote for over 4,000 candidates vying for 444 seats.  The NDP won 71 
percent of the seats, independents 25 percent, and opposition parties 
2.9 percent. 
There are several security services in the Ministry of Interior, two of 
which are primarily involved in combating terrorism:  the State Security 
Investigations Sector (SSIS), which conducts investigations and 
interrogates detainees; and the Central Security Force (CSF), which 
enforces curfews and bans on public demonstrations, and conducts 
paramilitary operations against terrorists.  Some members of the 
security forces committed serious human rights abuses.  Terrorists 
committed numerous serious human rights abuses. 
Egypt is slowly moving from a command economy to a free market system.  
Manufacturing is still dominated by the public sector while agriculture, 
the single largest employer, is almost entirely in private hands.  
Remittances from approximately 2 million Egyptians working abroad are 
the largest source of foreign currency earnings, followed by petroleum 
and tourism.  In the past 5 years, the Government has enacted 
significant economic reforms, which have reduced the budget deficit, 
stabilized the exchange rate, reduced inflation and interest rates, and 
built up substantial reserves. 
The Government generally respects many human rights, but others are 
restricted by the continuing imposition of the emergency law.  The 
ruling NDP dominates the political scene to such an extent that the 
people do not have a meaningful ability to change their government. 
The security forces and terrorist groups remained locked in a cycle of 
violence.  In fighting the terrorists, the security forces mistreated 
and tortured prisoners, held detainees in prolonged pretrial detention, 
and allegedly committed extrajudicial killings.  They occasionally 
undertook mass arrests.  Aside from the antiterrorist campaign, the 
local police have abused common criminal suspects.  The Government 
prosecuted police officers accused of abusing detainees, but did not 
pursue most cases or seek adequate punishments.  Prison conditions are 
poor. 
The use of military courts to try civilians continues to infringe on a 
defendant's right to a fair trial before an independent judiciary.  For 
the first time since the mid-1960's, the Government tried members of the 
Muslim Brotherhood in military courts on charges of illegal political 
activities.  These trials expanded the jurisdiction of the military 
courts beyond terrorism-related offenses.  Although citizens generally 
express themselves freely, the Government continues to restrict freedom 
of the press.  State security officers detained journalists for 
publishing articles critical of the Government, as well as several 
lawyers of accused terrorists for allegedly engaging in illegal 
activities.  In many of these cases the detention appeared to be a form 
of government harassment. 
The Government restricts freedom of assembly and association, and does 
not legally recognize local human rights groups.  However, these groups 
are allowed to operate openly. 
Women and Christians face discrimination based on tradition and some 
aspects of the law.  Violence against women and children is a problem.  
Female genital mutilation continues to be widespread, despite government 
efforts to educate the public against it.  The Government does not 
prohibit the mutilation, but has implemented new restrictions to curb 
its practice. 
Terrorist groups, seeking to overthrow the Government and establish an 
Islamic state, continued their attacks on police, Coptic Christians, and 
tourists.  In June Egyptian terrorists attempted to assassinate 
President Mubarak in Ethiopia.  Terrorists were responsible for the vast 
majority of civilian deaths. 
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS 
Section 1   Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom 
from: 
   a.   Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing 
There were no reports of political killings.  There were several 
credible reports, however, that security forces were involved in what 
amounted to extrajudicial killings, because they allegedly were issued 
shoot-to-kill orders in certain antiterrorist operations. 
According to the Government, 71 prisoners died in custody in 1995, 
compared to 82 such deaths in 1994 and 97 deaths in 1993.  Thirteen of 
the deaths occurred at the New Valley Prison which began receiving 
prisoners in February.  The prison is located in a remote desert area 
and houses suspected and convicted terrorists.  Authorities stated that 
the 13 inmates died of natural causes or as the result of hunger 
strikes.  Human rights groups, family members, and defense lawyers 
alleged that at least some of the deaths were the result of torture and 
denial of food, water, and medical treatment.  As evidence, they pointed 
to the prisoners' accounts of torture and the failure of prison 
authorities to provide a report on the cause of death.  Authorities 
reportedly denied family members permission to view the bodies of their 
relatives.  While denying charges of intentional mistreatment of 
prisoners, the Government stated that during a surprise inspection of 
the New Valley Prison in June, inspectors found that the medical 
facilities were deficient and ordered them brought up to standard. 
Other deaths in custody occurred in Istikbal Torah Prison and Abu Zaabal 
Prison.  Government investigations concluded that the prisoners in those 
cases died of natural causes. 
In the case of Islamist lawyer Abdel Harith Madani, who died in police 
custody in April 1994, the Government stated that it had completed the 
investigation into his death but declined to publicize the results. 
In antiterrorist operations, the security forces killed approximately 
181 suspected terrorists, some of them by the excessive use of lethal 
force.  Three civilian bystanders were killed inadvertently by security 
forces.  Five suspects died while attempting to escape arrest.  
Civilians killed two suspected terrorists, as well as six relatives of 
suspected extremists in apparent vendettas. 
Terrorist groups were responsible for the majority of the deaths in 
civil unrest.  They killed approximately 200 people, compared to 141 in 
1994.  This total included approximately 107 police and security 
officers, as well as 89 civilians.  Terrorists appeared to have 
increased their attacks on Christians, killing at least 30, including 6 
in Minya Governorate in September.  They also attacked churches and 
other properties owned by Christians.  In June Egyptian terrorists 
attempted to assassinate President Mubarak while he was on a visit to 
Ethiopia.  The President was unhurt in the attack, but his bodyguards 
and Ethiopian security forces returned fire killing several assailants. 
   b.   Disappearance 
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. 
Of the 11 individuals that local human rights groups claimed had 
disappeared in 1994, 6 have since been located in detention facilities, 
but 5 remain missing.  The Government has not responded to queries from 
human rights monitors regarding the 5 outstanding cases. 
There were no developments in the case of Mansur Kikhya, a former Libyan 
foreign minister under Colonel Al-Qadhafi and a prominent exiled 
dissident, who disappeared in Cairo in 1993.  Observers believe that 
Libyan agents abducted Kikhya.  His whereabouts are unknown. 
   c.   Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or 
Punishment 
The Constitution prohibits the infliction of "physical or moral harm" 
upon persons who have been arrested or detained.  However, there is 
convincing evidence that some police and security officers, as well as 
prison guards, routinely abuse and torture detainees. 
Under the Penal Code, torture with the intent of obtaining a confession 
is punishable by 3 to 5 years imprisonment or hard labor, or execution 
if the torture results in the death of the victim.  The mistreatment of 
a detainee falling short of torture is punishable by 1 year's 
imprisonment or a fine of $65.  In addition, victims may bring a 
criminal or civil action for compensation against the responsible 
government agency.  There is no statute of limitations in such cases. 
Despite these legal safeguards, there were numerous credible reports of 
mistreatment and torture.  Police officials said that in some districts 
confessions in criminal cases were coerced because the courts rely 
heavily on confessions and eyewitness accounts. 
While the Government has investigated torture complaints in criminal 
cases and punished some offending officers, the punishments are not 
necessarily in line with the seriousness of the offense.  In May the 
Minister of Interior stated that authorities investigated over 150 
officers in the previous year on charges of torture and harsh treatment 
of citizens.  Of those who were convicted, some were sentenced to 
prison, while others received administrative punishments.  The 
Government has said that it will not disclose further details of 
individual cases of police abuse for fear of harming the morale of law 
enforcement officers waging the ongoing war against terrorists. 
Officers of the SSIS allegedly are responsible for most of the torture 
of suspected terrorists.  Torture has reportedly taken place in police 
stations; SSIS offices, including its headquarters in Cairo; and at 
Central Security Force camps.  Torture is used to extract information, 
coerce the victims to end their antigovernment activities, and deter 
others from such activities.  Torture victims usually are taken to a 
SSIS office where they are handcuffed, blindfolded, and questioned about 
their associations, religious beliefs, and political views. 
Written records of detainees' whereabouts are not kept while in the 
custody of the state security police.  The absence of such a record in 
the early days of detention invites abuse and effectively blocks the 
investigation of torture complaints.  Records are maintained only after 
security forces deliver the detainee to a prison.  The security forces 
also transfer detainees from prisons to other facilities where they are 
interrogated, tortured, and then returned to prison.  No written records 
are kept on such transfers. 
Victims have reported the following torture methods:  detainees are 
frequently stripped to their underwear; hung by their wrists with their 
feet touching the floor or forced to stand for prolonged periods; doused 
with hot and cold water; beaten; forced to stand outdoors in cold 
weather; and subjected to electric shocks.  Some victims, including 
female detainees, report that they have been threatened with rape. 
In late 1994, public prosecutors charged a policeman with torture, 
unlawful detention, illegal entry, and excessive use of force in the 
case of Fateh Al-Bab Abdel Moneim who died in police custody in 1994.  
At year's end, the case was pending before the South Cairo Criminal 
Court. 
In early 1995, a local human rights group reported that Gamal EL-Shazly 
had been tortured on December 27, 1994, in a police station in Manshayit 
Nasser, a small town in southern Egypt.  A representative from the group 
reportedly examined El-Shazly and found burns on his head and back.  He 
notified the public prosecutor's office, which began an investigation. 
Information came to light during the year that in 1994 Saber Ahmed 
Mahmoud was beaten to death by four policemen.  The Government later 
indicted the policemen, who were convicted, sentenced to 6 months' 
imprisonment, and ordered to make a small compensation payment to the 
victim's heirs.  In their appeal, the defendants argued that the victim 
died from a preexisting medical condition.  The prosecutor dropped 
homicide charges and recharged the defendants with excessive use of 
force.  The court confirmed the convictions on the lesser charge and 
upheld the 6-month prison sentences. 
In April a court sentenced one police officer to 1 year in prison, two 
officers to 3 months, and acquitted two others in the 1994 death of 
Sayyed Hassan Fetouh Eleiwa.  In November a court sentenced two police 
officers to 5 years at hard labor for the 1994 death of Hassan Salah 
Sayyed. 
State prosecutors ruled the 1994 death in custody of Eissa Taher Soliman 
a suicide and at year's end were still reviewing the 1994 death in 
custody of Amre Mohamed Safwat.  There were no new developments in the 
case of Mohammed Abdel Hamid Hassan, who reportedly died in police 
custody in 1994.  State prosecutors also closed the books on the 
following deaths in custody on grounds that the perpetrators could not 
be identified:  Mohamed Abdel Hamid Hassan, Effat Mohamed Ali Wali, El-
Mohammadi Mohamed Mohamed Mursi, and Mohamed Gomaa Abdel Sayyed El-
Sudani. 
The completion of five new prisons has helped relieve pressure on the 
congested prison system.  Nevertheless, overcrowding and unhealthy 
prison conditions are common.  Prisoners have claimed that their cells 
are poorly ventilated, food is inadequate in quantity and nutritional 
value, and medical services were not always available.  There were at 
least 71 reported deaths of persons in police custody (see Section 
1.a.). 
Prisoners at two high security prisons, the New Valley Prison and Torah 
Prison, reported receiving a form of physical and psychological abuse 
upon their arrival at prison known as a "reception party."  Under the 
supervision of a prison official and doctor, guards reportedly beat new 
arrivals for 30 minutes with fists and heavy plastic sticks.  The 
inmates are then forced to crawl to their cells on their hands and 
knees.  Other prisoners allege that they have been stripped to their 
underwear, forced to stand for prolonged periods in cold water, burnt 
with cigarettes, and subjected to electric shocks.  Some claim that they 
have been threatened with rape or the rape of their relatives. 
The Ministry of Interior continued to ban visits by relatives and 
lawyers at Al-Aqrab Prison and Torah Istiqbal Prison, despite court 
orders annulling the bans.  The bans have been in effect since December 
1993 and September 1994, respectively.  The Ministry justifies the bans 
as necessary to prevent cooperation between prisoners and terrorists 
still at large. 
   d.   Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile 
As part of the Government's antiterrorist campaign, security forces 
conducted mass arrests and detained thousands of individuals without 
charge.  These arrests were authorized under the provisions of the 
Emergency Law, which has been in effect since 1981.  Under this law, the 
police may obtain an arrest warrant from the Ministry of Interior upon 
showing that an individual poses a danger to security and public order.  
This procedure nullifies the constitutional requirement of obtaining a 
warrant from a judge or prosecutor upon showing that an individual has 
likely committed a specific crime. 
The Emergency Law allows authorities to detain an individual without 
charge.  After 30 days, a detainee has the right to demand a court 
hearing to challenge the legality of the detention order, and may 
resubmit his motion for a hearing at 1-month intervals thereafter.  
There is no maximum limit to the length of detention if the judge 
continues to uphold the legality of the detention order, or if the 
detainee fails to exercise his right to a hearing. 
Acting under the Emergency Law, security forces detained thousands of 
individuals suspected of having information about illegal organizations.  
In most cases, the individuals were released after several days, but in 
other instances, they were not released until after extended periods in 
detention. 
In January security forces conducted a large operation in the southern 
province of Minya, detaining over 3,000 young men on suspicion of having 
ties with the Islamic Group, a terrorist organization, or for failing to 
provide information about the Group.  Almost all of the detainees were 
released by March without charges having been brought against them. 
From October 1994 to early 1995, the Government maintained a dusk-to-
dawn curfew on Mallawi and several surrounding villages in Minya 
province.  The Government stated that the curfew was necessary to 
maintain order and protect citizens from attacks by extremists. 
Human rights groups reported that nearly 200 persons detained under the 
Emergency Law have been incarcerated for several years without charge.  
The courts have ordered the release of several of these detainees, but 
prison officials have reportedly ignored the orders.  Frequently, the 
Ministry of Interior reissues detention orders, sending detainees back 
to prison. 
From January through September, security forces detained over 300 
members of the Muslim Brotherhood on suspicion of engaging in illegal 
political activities.  The Brotherhood is an outlawed Islamist 
organization.  The Political Parties Law of 1977 prohibits the 
establishment of political parties based on religion.  The Government 
referred 82 of these Muslim Brotherhood detainees to trial in a military 
court on charges of membership in an illegal organization, maintaining 
links to terrorists, and plotting to overthrow the Government (see 
Section 1.e.).  Several other detainees were released, but the remainder 
are still being held for investigation. 
In addition to the Emergency Law, the Penal Code also gives the State 
wide detention powers.  Under the Penal Code prosecutors must bring 
charges within 48 hours or release the suspect.  However, they may 
detain a suspect for a maximum of 6 months, pending investigation.  
Arrests under the Penal Code occur openly and with warrants issued by a 
district prosecutor or judge.  There is a system of bail.  The Penal 
Code contains several provisions to combat extremist violence.  These 
provisions broadly define terrorism to include the acts of "spreading 
panic" and "obstructing the work of authorities." 
In January the Government released Adel Hussein, Secretary General of 
the Socialist Labor Party, who was detained for questioning in December 
1994 concerning extremist publications allegedly found in his possession 
upon his return from a trip abroad.  No charges were filed. 
In February the widow of Abdel Harith Al-Madani, a lawyer who died in 
custody under suspicious circumstances in 1994, was detained for 1 or 2 
days.  The detention came after an international human rights group 
published a report in which she alleged that the Government had harassed 
her and her family after the death of her husband.  After her release, 
Mrs. Al-Madani declined to make further public comments on her husband's 
death.  Government-controlled newspapers reported subsequently that she 
had denounced the human rights report and had denied that she had been 
detained. 
Official sources report the total prison population at approximately 
33,000.  Of these, 150 are convicted terrorists; 2,500 to 4,000 are 
suspected terrorists either charged and awaiting trial, or not charged 
and awaiting the results of investigations.  By contrast, a local human 
rights group estimates that approximately 15,000 suspected terrorists 
are in detention.  This estimate does do not include the undetermined 
number of detainees who have not been officially registered in the 
prison system (see Section 1.c.). 
   e.   Denial of Fair Public Trial 
The judiciary is independent and generally is credited with conducting 
fair trials.  However, under the Emergency Law, cases involving 
terrorism and national security may be tried in military or State 
Security Courts, in which the accused do not receive all the 
Constitutional guarantees of the judicial system. 
There are three levels of regular criminal courts:  primary courts, 
appeals courts, and the Court of Cassation, the final stage of criminal 
appeal.  The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic tradition; hence 
there are no juries.  Criminal cases are heard by panels of three 
judges.  Most trials are public, as required by the Constitution.  
Defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence under the 
Constitution, and have the right to be present at trial, consult with a 
lawyer in a timely way and at public expense if needed, present 
witnesses and evidence, and review government-held evidence. 
The Constitution provides for the independence and immunity of judges, 
and forbids interference by other authorities in the exercise of their 
judicial functions.  The President appoints all judges upon 
recommendation of the Higher Judicial Council, a constitutional body 
composed of senior judges, lawyers, and law professors, and chaired by 
the president of the Court of Cassation.  The Council regulates judicial 
promotions, salaries, transfers, and disciplinary actions. 
Defense lawyers generally agree that the regular judiciary respects the 
rights of the accused and exercises its independence.  In the past, 
criminal court judges have dismissed cases where confessions were 
obtained by coercion. 
The Constitution provides detainees with the right to counsel, at state 
expense if necessary.  In practice, most suspects are able to take 
advantage of this guarantee.  The Egyptian Lawyers Syndicate provides 
free counsel to indigent defendants.  However, detainees in certain 
high-security prisons alleged that they were denied access to counsel or 
such access was delayed until trial, thus denying counsel the time to 
prepare an adequate defense. 
Human rights groups and defense lawyers have claimed that the Government 
has intimidated lawyers representing terrorist suspects by detaining and 
questioning them on the activities of their clients.  On one occasion in 
1995, a human rights lawyer was detained and interrogated for 2 days by 
state security following his visit to the family of a detainee in 
Assiyut.  The Government contends that some defense lawyers are 
suspected of collaborating in terrorist groups and that therefore the 
detention is legal. 
The use of military and state security tribunals under the Emergency Law 
has deprived hundreds of civilian defendants of their constitutional 
right to be tried by an "ordinary judge."  In 1992, with extremist 
violence on the rise, the Government began trying cases of persons 
accused of terrorism and membership in terrorist groups before military 
tribunals.  In 1993 the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the 
President may invoke the Emergency Law to refer any crime to a military 
court. 
From December 1994 to December 1995, the Government referred 
approximately 143 civilian defendants to the military courts. Of these, 
61 were charged in three separate cases with committing or conspiring to 
commit terrorist acts.  The courts sentenced 4 defendants to death, 41 
to prison, and acquitted 16. 
In September the Government referred 49 members of the Muslim 
Brotherhood to a military court to stand trial on charges of engaging in 
illegal political activities, including contacts with terrorist groups.  
The defendants were not charged with any specific terrorist acts.  The 
trials mark the first time since the mid-1960's that the Government has 
tried civilian defendants in a military court on political charges.  In 
October the Government referred an additional 33 individuals, most of 
them Muslim Brotherhood members, to a military court on similar charges.  
The court handed down verdicts in both cases in November.  It convicted 
54 defendants, acquitted 27, and ordered the closing of the 
Brotherhood's headquarters office in Cairo.  The court sentenced five 
prominent defendants to 5 years of hard labor.  They are:  Dr. Essam El-
Erian, a former member of the People's Assembly and an official in the 
Egyptian Doctor's Syndicate; Mohammed El-Sayed Habib, a former member of 
the People's Assembly and president of the Assiyut University Faculty 
Club; Abdel Moneim Abul Futuh, secretary general of the Arab Doctors' 
Federation; Mohammed Khairat El-Shater, chairman of the board of El-
Mohandes Bank; and El-Sayed Mahmoud Ezzat, a professor of medicine at 
Zagzig University.  Forty-nine other defendants received 3-year 
sentences. 
Defense lawyers walked out of the first trial, claiming that the trial 
of civilians by a military court was unconstitutional.  They 
subsequently filed a petition with the Supreme Constitutional Court 
challenging the military court's jurisdiction.  As of late December, the 
Supreme Court had not ruled on this petition.  Meanwhile, the military 
court appointed other lawyers to replace those who walked out.  A local 
human rights group that sent observers to the trials and interviewed 
defense lawyers stated that the lawyers lacked sufficient time to 
prepare their cases and were denied the opportunity to question key 
government witnesses thoroughly. 
The Government defends the use of military courts as necessary in 
terrorism cases, maintaining that trials in the civilian courts are 
protracted, and civilian judges and their families are vulnerable to 
terrorist threats.  Some civilian judges have confirmed their fear of 
trying high visibility terrorism cases because of possible reprisal.  
The Government claims that civilian defendants receive fair trials in 
the military courts and enjoy the same rights as defendants in civilian 
courts. 
However, the military courts do not guarantee civilian defendants due 
process before an independent tribunal.  While military judges are 
lawyers, they are also military officers appointed by the Minister of 
Defense and subject to military discipline.  They are not independent or 
as qualified as civilian judges in applying the civilian penal code.  
There is no appellate process for verdicts issued by military courts; 
instead, verdicts are subject to a review by other military judges and 
confirmed by the President, who in practice usually delegates the review 
function to a senior military officer.  Defense attorneys have 
complained that they have not been given sufficient time to prepare 
defenses and that judges tend to rush cases with many defendants. 
The State Security Courts share jurisdiction with military courts over 
crimes affecting national security.  The President appoints judges to 
these courts from the civilian judiciary upon the recommendation of the 
Minister of Justice and, if he chooses to appoint military judges, the 
Minister of Defense.  Verdicts cannot be appealed; sentences are subject 
to confirmation by the President.  The President may alter or annul a 
decision of a State Security Court, including a decision to release a 
defendant.  In 1995 State Security Courts tried at least 20 cases 
involving over 120 defendants charged with terrorist acts. 
There are no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners. 
   f.   Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
Correspondence 
The Emergency Law has abridged the constitutional provisions regarding 
the right to privacy.  Under the Constitution, homes, correspondence, 
telephone calls, and other means of communication "shall have their own 
sanctity, and their secrecy shall be guaranteed."  Police must obtain 
warrants before undertaking searches and wiretaps.  Courts have 
dismissed cases in which warrants were issued without sufficient cause.  
Police officials who conduct searches without proper warrants are 
subject to criminal penalties, although these are seldom imposed. 
The Emergency Law empowers the Government to place wiretaps, intercept 
mail and search persons or places without warrants.  Security agencies 
frequently place political activists, suspected subversives, 
journalists, foreigners, and writers under surveillance, screen their 
correspondence (especially international mail), search them and their 
homes, and confiscate personal property. 
According to press reports and a local human rights group, in January 
security forces in Minya Province demolished the homes of 17 individuals 
who were suspected of membership in terrorist groups.  The Government 
confirms that the demolitions took place, but maintains that they were 
not authorized.  There were no further reports of similar demolitions. 
Section 2   Respect for Civil Liberties, Including: 
   a.   Freedom of Speech and Press 
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press.  Citizens 
openly speak their views on a wide range of political and social issues, 
including vigorous criticism of the Government. 
 
There are significant limitations on freedom of the press. 
The Government owns most major daily newspapers and the President 
appoints their editors-in-chief.  Although these papers generally follow 
the government line, they frequently criticize government policies. 
Opposition political parties publish their own papers but receive a 
subsidy from the Government and, in some cases, subsidies from foreign 
interests as well.  Most are weeklies, with the exception of the 
centrist daily "Al-Wafd" and "Al-Shaab," the semi-weekly of the 
Islamist-oriented Social Labor Party  All have small circulations.  
Opposition newspapers frequently publish tough criticism of the 
Government, inspiring rejoinders from the government-owned press.  They 
also give greater prominence to human rights abuses than the state-run 
newspapers.  All party newspapers are required by law to reflect the 
platform of their party.  Some papers have been called to account when 
they have deviated from their party line. 
The Press Law stipulates fines or imprisonment for criticism of the 
President or a foreign head of state.  In recent years, opposition party 
newspapers have, within limits, published articles critical of the 
President and foreign heads of state without being charged or harassed. 
Libel laws provide normal protection against malicious rumor mongering 
and unsubstantiated reporting.  However, the penalties are so minimal 
and the judicial process so long and costly that individuals or 
officials who are wrongly defamed have no realistic legal recourse.  
This has given some opposition, and even government-controlled, 
newspapers license to publish rumors.  On several occasions in 1995, the 
Government detained and interrogated several editors and journalists for 
publishing allegations of official misconduct and corruption.  They were 
released within several hours. 
In June the Government obtained quick passage in the People's Assembly 
of legislation to stiffen penalties for criminal libel and broaden its 
definition.  The Government introduced the amendments during an evening 
session without prior consultation with the Assembly.  Passage was 
achieved after 2 hours of debate.  The change allows the police to 
detain offending editors or journalists under normal criminal 
procedures.  However, the vagueness of the definition of criminal libel 
imposes severe limitations on press freedom.  The new law makes it a 
crime to publish news that may lead to "public panic," or "harms 
national interests," or "ridicules state institutions or the officials 
governing those institutions." 
Opposition to the new law was led by the Press Syndicate, which is 
dominated by the ruling party.  The Syndicate declared its "outrage" and 
unsuccessfully urged the President not to sign the measure into law.  In 
response to this opposition, the Government stated that it would suspend 
the implementation of the law, pending a review by a committee of 
interested parties.  Nonetheless, in September security forces detained 
and the prosecutor charged with libel under the new law the editor-in-
chief of Al-Shaab, the Labor Party's newspaper, in connection with an 
article critical of a cabinet minister's son.  In December a journalist 
and his editor at the opposition paper Al-Ahali were sentenced by a 
criminal court to two year's imprisonment and fines of approximately US$ 
15,000 for an article about a police raid. 
Various ministries are authorized to ban or confiscate books and other 
works of art upon obtaining a court order.  In addition, the Ministry of 
Interior regularly confiscates leaflets and other works by Muslim 
fundamentalists.  During the year, the Ministry prevented the public 
sale of audio cassette tapes by fundamentalist imams whose preachings 
were extreme and in some cases advocated violence against non-Muslims, 
apostates, and the government.  The Ministry of Defense also may ban 
works about sensitive security issues. 
Plays and films must pass Ministry of Culture censorship tests as 
scripts and as final productions.  Many plays and films, highly critical 
of the Government and its policies, are not censored.  In August the 
Ministry temporarily banned a play, "The Constitution, Gentlemen," when 
actors began diverging from the script to make illegal satirical 
references to President Mubarak and senior government officials.  The 
Ministry removed the ban after obtaining a pledge from the acting troupe 
to abide by the script. 
The Ministry of Culture also censors foreign films for viewing in 
theaters, but it is more lenient when the same films are released in 
video cassette format.  Government censors ensure that foreign films 
made in Egypt portray Egypt in a favorable light.  Censors review 
scripts before filming, are present during filming, and have the right 
to review the film before it is sent out of Egypt. 
The Ministry of Information owns and operates all domestic television 
productions and has the right to censor foreign news publications.  The 
Ministry seldom exercises its right.  However, the Ministry banned three 
issues of the English-language weekly, "The Middle East Times," in 1995.  
Those issues contained articles on allegations of human rights 
violations; one article reported that security forces had detained the 
widow of Abdel Harith Al-Madani (see Sections 1.a. and 1.d.). 
The Islamic Research Institute at Al-Azhar University has legal 
authority to censor, but not to confiscate, all publications dealing 
with the Koran and Islamic scriptural texts.  In recent years the 
Institute has passed judgment on the suitability of nonreligious books 
and artistic productions. 
In January an administrative court ruled that the sole authority to 
prohibit publication or distribution of books and other works of art 
resides with the Ministry of Culture.  This decision voided a 1994 
advisory opinion by a judiciary council that had expanded Al-Azhar's 
censorship authority to include visual and audio artistic works.  In the 
past, President Mubarak has publicly approved Al-Azhar's censorship 
role, but in 1994 he stated that the Government would not allow 
confiscation of books from the market without a court order. 
The Government does not directly restrict academic freedom at 
universities.  However, some university professors claim that the 
Government tightened its control over universities in 1994 when a law 
was passed authorizing university presidents to appoint the deans of the 
various faculties.  Under the previous law, faculty deans were elected 
by their peers.  The Government has justified the measure as a means to 
combat Islamist influence on campus. 
As in recent years, moderate Muslims and secularist writers have found 
themselves under attack by Islamic extremists.  In March an appeals 
court overturned a court-ordered ban on the film "The Emigrant."  In 
1994 a group of Islamist lawyers brought suit against the film, arguing 
that it violated Islamic tenets in its portrayal of the life of the 
prophet Joseph.  The plaintiffs have filed a new suit against the film; 
nonetheless, the film is still being shown in Egypt. 
Hearings in the court case of Cairo University professor Nasser Abu Zeid 
continued into 1996.  For the last several years, Islamic fundamentalist 
lawyers have asked the courts to rule that Abu Zeid is an apostate 
because of his controversial views regarding the origin of the Koran, 
and order him to live separately from his wife.  The petitioners argued 
that as an apostate, Abu Zeid should not be allowed to remain married to 
a Muslim woman in a Muslim country.  After a lower court threw out this 
suit, an appellate court in June gave the plaintiffs standing to pursue 
their suit.  Jurists and secular intellectuals criticized the court's 
decision as an infringement on the principle of privacy and freedom of 
expression.  The Government has joined Abu Zeid in his appeal.  
Meanwhile, Abu Zeid and his wife are residing together abroad. 
   b.   Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association 
Substantial restrictions on these freedoms continue.  Under a 1923 law, 
citizens must obtain approval from the Ministry of Interior before 
holding public meetings, rallies, and protest marches.  Permits are 
generally granted for rallies held indoors or on university campuses.  
The police broke up several political rallies in Cairo, Alexandria, and 
other cities during the parliamentary election campaigns in November.  
The authorities claimed that the organizers, who in most cases were 
opposition party candidates or independents, lacked the requisite 
permits. 
Under Law 32 of 1964, the Ministry of Social Affairs has extensive 
authority over Egyptian "associations and private foundations," 
including the right to license and dissolve them, confiscate their 
properties, appoint members to their boards, and intercede in other 
administrative matters.  Licenses may be revoked if such organizations 
engage in political or religious activities.  The law authorizes the 
Ministry to "merge two or more associations to achieve a similar 
function," a provision that may be used to merge an undesirable 
organization out of existence. 
Since 1985 the Government has refused under Law 32 to license the 
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) and the Arab Organization 
for Human Rights (AOHR) on grounds that they are political 
organizations.  Nevertheless, both continue to operate openly (see 
Section 4).  Similarly, the request made by Amnesty International (AI) 
in 1990 for legal status for its local chapter is still pending with the 
Government. 
Under 1993 legislation on professional syndicates, an association must 
elect its governing board by at least 50 percent of its general 
membership.  Failing a quorum, a second election must be held in which 
at least 33 percent of the membership votes for the board.  If such a 
quorum is impossible, the judiciary may appoint a caretaker board until 
new elections can be set.  The law was adopted to prevent well organized 
minorities, specifically Islamists, from capturing or retaining the 
leadership of professional syndicates.  Members of these syndicates have 
reported that Islamists have used such irregular electoral techniques as 
physically blocking polling places, and limiting or changing the 
location of polling sites. 
   c.   Freedom of Religion 
The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of 
religious rites.  However, there are important limitations.  Most 
Egyptians are Muslim, but at least 10 per cent of the population, 5.5 
million people, belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church, the largest 
Christian minority in the Middle East.  There are other small Christian 
denominations, as well as a Jewish community numbering fewer than 50. 
For the most part, members of the non-Muslim minority worship without 
harassment and maintain links with co-religionists abroad.  Under the 
Constitution, however, Islam is the official state religion and primary 
source of legislation.  Accordingly, religious practices that conflict 
with Islamic law are prohibited.  For example, it is a crime for non-
Muslims to proselytize.  At least 5 Christians were detained in 1994 and 
1995 under this law.  All were released after spending several weeks in 
detention. 
Similarly, Muslims face legal problems if they convert to another faith.  
Authorities have charged a few converts to Christianity under provisions 
of the Penal Code which prohibit the use of religion to "ignite strife, 
degrade any of the heavenly religions or harm national unity or social 
peace."  In other cases, authorities have charged such persons with 
violating laws against falsifying documents, since Muslim converts to 
Christianity sometimes attempt to change their names and religious 
affiliation on their identification cards and other official 
documentation to reflect their conversion.  These laws were upheld in a 
1980 court decision.  At least four individuals were detained in late 
1994 and during 1995 under these laws and released. 
There were credible reports that State Security officers in Cairo 
detained, interrogated, and in at least one case, physically abused, 
several Christians and converts to Christianity in an effort to obtain 
information about the identities and activities of other converts.  At 
least one of these cases was brought to higher authorities and is under 
review. 
An 1856 Ottoman decree still in force requires non-Muslims to obtain 
what is now a presidential decree to build or repair a place of worship.  
Coptic Christians maintain that they frequently have been unable to 
obtain such authorization, that such permits have been delayed, or that 
they have been blocked by the security forces from using the 
authorizations that have been issued. 
In January the press reported the arrest of three Christians in 
Alexandria for making unauthorized repairs to the bathroom of their 
church.  As a result of these restrictions, some communities have been 
using private buildings and apartments for religious services.  Since 
1992, the situation has improved somewhat as the Government has 
increased the number of building permits issued to Christian communities 
to an average of more than 20 per year, compared to the average of 5 
permits issued annually in the 1980's.  Most permits appear to be for 
the repair of existing structures and not for new construction of 
churches, however.  While Christian and Muslim reformers urge the 
abolition of the Ottoman decree, Islamists who oppose the spread of 
Christianity in Egypt defend the building restrictions. 
In 1994 the Alexandria government closed two buildings near the city 
which had been used by Coptic Evangelical Christians since 1990 for 
church activities.  The Government claims that the church lacked a 
building permit.  Lawyers for the church point out that the closures 
violated previous court rulings upholding the right to conduct religious 
services in private buildings without prior government approval.  They 
also pointed out that the closed buildings were located in an area where 
unlicensed buildings are common.  At year's end, the case remained with 
an administrative court in Alexandria. 
The Government continued to make efforts to extend legal controls to all 
mosques, which by law must be licensed.  The Government appoints and 
pays the salaries of the imams officiating in mosques, and proposes 
themes for and monitors sermons.  Of the country's approximately 70,000 
mosques, nearly half remain unlicensed and operate outside the control 
of government authorities.  In an effort to combat Islamic extremists, 
the Government announced that it intended to bring 10,000 unauthorized 
mosques under its control this year. 
   d.   Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, 
Emigration, and Repatriation 
Citizens and foreigners are free to travel within Egypt except in 
certain military areas.  Males who have not completed compulsory 
military service may not travel abroad or emigrate, although this 
restriction can be deferred or bypassed.  Unmarried women under 21 must 
have permission from their fathers to obtain passports and travel; 
married women require the same permission from their husbands.  Citizens 
who leave the country have the right to return. 
In May and June, the Ministry of Interior refused a request for 
permission to travel by Omar Abdel Kafi, a preacher at a mosque in Cairo 
who had been banned from preaching because of his alleged extremist 
views. 
In recent years, the Government has denied permission to a small number 
of Christian converts from Islam to travel abroad.  In October 1994, 
security officials arrested Ibrahim Sharaf Al-Din, an Egyptian convert, 
at Cairo airport as he attempted to enter Egypt from Kenya, where he had 
been granted asylum and resided with his family since the early 1980's.  
Al-Din was imprisoned for 8 months while prosecutors investigated the 
circumstances of his conversion.  He was released without charge in 
June, but at year's end was unable to depart Egypt because, according to 
the Government, the prosecutor's case against him is still pending. 
The deportation of citizens and aliens granted political asylum is 
prohibited and is not practiced. 
Egypt hosts thousands of refugees, but only a few are officially allowed 
to resettle permanently. 
Section 3   Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens to 
Change Their Government 
The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) dominates the 454-seat 
People's Assembly, the Shura Council, local governments, the mass media, 
labor, the large public sector, and the licensing of new political 
parties, newspapers, and private organizations to such an extent that, 
as a practical matter, citizens do not have a meaningful ability to 
change their government. 
In 1993 President Hosni Mubarak was elected unopposed to a third 6-year 
term by the People's Assembly.  In October of that year, his reelection 
was approved by 96 percent of the voters in a national referendum.  
Under the Constitution, the electorate is not presented with a choice 
among competing presidential candidates.  Two opposition parties urged 
the public to boycott the referendum, and two other parties urged the 
public to vote against the President.  The other opposition parties 
endorsed the President's candidacy. 
An election for the 454-seat People's Assembly was held in November.  
Run-offs took place in December.  In the final tally, the NDP won 317 
seats, independents 114, and opposition parties 13.  After the second 
round, 99 of the independents applied to join the NDP, but the party 
accepted only 11 applicants.  One Muslim Brother, running as an 
independent, was elected.  After the election he joined the Socialist 
Labor Party.  The election drew an unprecedented 4,000 candidates and a 
strong measure of public interest.  It also brought an unprecedented 
level of campaigning by all candidates, including those with assumed 
safe seats. 
Both rounds of voting were marred by irregularities, many of which 
appeared to result from either inadequate crowd control at polling 
centers or a breakdown in the oversight system, which was designed to 
ensure the inviolability of the ballot boxes.  Violent incidents, mostly 
among supporters of competing candidates, resulted in about 20 deaths. 
After the first round, over 100 losing candidates filed complaints in 
the Administrative Courts, alleging ballot-stuffing and other 
irregularities.  The courts agreed with many of these claims and 
invalidated several first-round results.  At year's end, the Higher 
Administrative Court in Cairo was considering about 100 cases on appeal.  
This court has the authority to rule on whether irregularities took 
place, but may not remove an elected member of the Assembly. 
The Assembly debates government proposals, and members exercise their 
authority to call cabinet ministers to explain policy.  The executive 
initiates almost all legislation.  Nevertheless, the Assembly maintains 
the authority to challenge or restrain the executive in the areas of 
economic and social policy, but it may not modify the budget except with 
the Government's approval.  The Assembly exercises limited influence in 
the areas of security and foreign policy, and there is little oversight 
of the Interior Ministry's use of Emergency Law powers.  Many executive 
branch initiatives and policies are carried out by regulation through 
ministerial decree without legislative oversight.  The military budget 
is prepared by the executive and not debated publicly.  Roll-call votes 
in the assembly are rare.  Votes are generally reported in aggregate 
terms of yeas and nays, and thus constituents have no independent method 
of checking a member's voting record. 
There are 15 recognized opposition parties.  The law empowers the 
Government to bring felony charges against those who form a party 
without a license.  New parties must be approved by the Parties 
Committee, a semi-official body including a substantial majority of 
members from the ruling NDP and some members from among the independents 
and opposition parties.  Decisions of the Parties Committee may be 
appealed to the civil courts.  In 1995 the Parties Committee rejected 
the application for one new party, the Egyptian Republican Party; a 
second, the Equality Party, was approved on a court appeal.  Appeals of 
rejections of seven other parties are pending before a court. 
According to the law, which prohibits political parties based on 
religion, the Muslim Brotherhood is an illegal political organization.   
However, Muslim Brothers are publicly known and openly speak their 
views, but have come under increasing pressure from the Government (see 
Sections 1.d. and 1.e.).  Some have served in the Assembly as 
independents or as members of other recognized parties.  Critics 
maintain that the Government's campaign of arrests of Muslim Brothers 
was designed to exclude the Brotherhood from the legislative elections. 
The Constitution reserves 10 Assembly seats for presidential appointees, 
which the President traditionally has used to assure representation for 
Coptic Christians and women.  Five women and no Copts were elected in 
November.  However, of the 10 presidential appointments, 6 were Copts 
and 4 were women.  The National Democratic Party had no Coptic 
candidates. 
Section 4   Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights 
The Government refuses to license local human rights groups as private 
entities under Law 32 of 1964 (see Section 2.b.).  Since 1986 the 
Government has refused to license the Egyptian Organization for Human 
Rights (EOHR) on grounds that it is a political organization and 
duplicates the activities of an  
existing, although moribund, human rights group (see Section 2.b.).  The 
EOHR has appealed the denial in the courts, and continues to conduct 
activities openly, pending a final judicial determination of its status. 
The Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), EOHR's parent 
organization, has a long-standing request for registration as a foreign 
organization with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  The Ministry has not 
approved the request thus far, stating that the issue is dependent on 
the outcome of efforts within the League of Arab States to establish a 
human rights body. 
A request by Amnesty International (AI) for legal status for its local 
chapter has been pending with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 5 
years.  In the meantime it is allowed to conduct limited activities. 
Despite their nonrecognition, the EOHR and other groups sometimes enjoy 
the cooperation of government officials.  The Government allows EOHR 
field workers to visit prisons, to call on some government officials, 
and to receive funding from foreign human rights organizations.  In 
August a senior government official met with leaders of the major human 
rights groups in Egypt for the first time to exchange views in what the 
groups hope will become a continuing dialogue. 
On the other hand, on at least six occasions during the year the 
Government banned meetings of human rights groups or denied permits for 
them to hold conferences.  In May the Government denied permission for a 
video training workshop for regional human rights activists sponsored by 
EOHR and the U.S.-based Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.  The 
Government denied the U.S. group permission to hold the workshop after 
its representatives had already traveled to Egypt. 
Other human rights organizations, such as the Center for Human Rights 
Legal Aid, are registered with the Government as corporations under 
commercial or civil law, thus avoiding the obstacles posed by Law 32 
(see Section 2.b.). 
In January the Ministry of Justice issued a nonbinding advisory ruling 
stating that such organizations properly should be considered 
nongovernmental organizations as defined by Law 32 and registered 
accordingly, or face punitive action.  Human rights advocates expressed 
their concern that this opinion, as well as a hostile press campaign 
against these groups by the government-controlled press, verbal attacks 
by senior government officials, and occasional bans on meetings by the 
organizations, may presage a move to close them down.  However, the 
Government did not close down any group during the year. 
Section 5   Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, 
Language, or Social Status 
The Constitution provides for equality of the sexes and equal treatment 
of non-Muslims, but aspects of the law and many traditional practices 
discriminate against women and Christians. 
   Women 
Family violence against women occurs and is reflected in press accounts 
of specific incidents.  Official or nonofficial quantitative data do not 
exist.  In general, the intervention of neighbors and extended family 
members tends to limit the prevalence and scope of such violence.  Abuse 
within the family is rarely discussed publicly, owing to the value 
attached to privacy in this traditional society.  Several 
nongovernmental organizations have begun offering counseling, legal aid, 
and other services to women who are victims of domestic violence. 
The law provides for equality of the sexes, but aspects of the law and 
many traditional practices discriminate against women.  By law, women 
need their husbands' or fathers' permission to obtain a passport or 
travel abroad (see Section 2.d.).  Only males can confer citizenship.  
In rare cases, this means that children born to Egyptian mothers and 
stateless fathers are themselves stateless. 
Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally correspond to an 
individual's religion, which for most Egyptians is Islam.  A 1979 
liberalization of the Family Status Law strengthening a Muslim woman's 
rights to divorce and child custody was repealed in 1985 after it was 
found unconstitutional for conflicting with Islamic law.  However, in 
August a proposed new marriage contract won the support of Egypt's 
highest religious figure, the last major step before the Government can 
adopt it.  The contract, which applies only to Muslims and would replace 
the current one drafted in 1931, stipulates negotiations between the 
partners to agree on the terms of the marriage, including the woman's 
right to work, study and travel abroad, as well as the man's right to 
take another wife.  The contract also proposes agreement on division of 
property and financial settlement in the event of divorce.  Under the 
contract, the bases for the wife's right to request a divorce would be 
broadened to include the husband's violation of any of the terms under 
the new contract. 
Under Islamic law, non-Muslim males must convert to Islam to marry 
Muslim women, but non-Muslim women need not convert to marry Muslim men.  
Muslim female heirs receive half the amount of a male heir's 
inheritance, while Christian widows of Muslims have no inheritance 
rights.  A sole female heir receives half her parents' estate; the 
balance goes to designated male relatives.  A sole male heir inherits 
all his parents' property.  Male Muslim heirs have the duty to provide 
for all family members who need assistance. 
Women have employment opportunities in government, medicine, law, 
academia, the arts, and, to a lesser degree, in business.  Three women 
are in the Cabinet.  Over 100 officers in the Egyptian diplomatic 
service are women, including 6 ambassadors.  There are no female judges.  
Although there is no legal basis to prohibit female judges, a woman 
under consideration for promotion to magistrate was denied the promotion 
on the basis of gender in 1993 and is suing the Government. 
Social pressure against women pursuing a career is strong, and some 
Egyptian feminists say that a resurgent Islamic fundamentalist trend 
limits further gains.  Women's rights advocates also point to other 
discriminatory traditional or cultural attitudes and practices such as 
female genital mutilation (FGM) and the traditional male relative's role 
in enforcing chastity and appropriate sexual conduct. 
There are a growing number of active women's rights groups working in 
diverse areas, including reforming the Personal Status Code, educating 
women on their legal rights, combating FGM and rewriting the marriage 
contract. 
   Children 
The Government remains committed to the protection of children's welfare 
within the limits of its budgetary resources.  Many of the resources for 
children's welfare are provided by international donors, especially in 
the field of child immunization.  Child labor is widespread, despite the 
Government's commitment to eradicate it.  In education, the Government 
treats boys and girls equally at the primary, secondary, and post-
secondary levels. 
FGM is widely condemned by international health experts as damaging to 
both physical and psychological health.  Statistics on the prevalence of 
FGM vary, but government and private sources agree it is common among 70 
to 80 per cent of rural and poor urban women.  The act is generally 
performed on girls between the ages of 7 and 10, probably with equal 
prevalence among Muslims and Coptic Christians. 
A 1959 decree and subsequent amendments, which described FGM as 
"psychologically harmful," limited the practice to excision.  However, 
the more drastic infibulation is practiced in some parts of southern 
Egypt.  The decree prohibited doctors from performing the excision in 
government health facilities; however, following public outcry in 1994 
over a foreign television broadcast of the circumcision of a 9-year-old 
girl by a barber, the Minister of Health decreed that FGM should be 
performed 1 day per week in government facilities only by trained 
medical personnel.  In announcing the decision, the Minister argued that 
making the practice illegal would only drive it underground; that it 
could be eliminated only by a sustained educational campaign; and that 
in the meantime it should be performed in clean, safe circumstances. 
Current law stipulates penalties for nonmedical practitioners of FGM.  A 
barber was arrested in May for the death of a 10-year-old girl whom he 
had circumcised, the second such death in the child's family at his 
hands.  However, the law does not stipulate punishment for parents who 
violate the law.  The Government broadcasts television programs 
condemning the practice, and a number of NGO's work actively to educate 
the public of the health hazards attached to the practice. 
The Sheikh of Al-Azhar, head of the world's oldest institution of 
Islamic learning, issued a decree in 1994 declaring FGM a religiously 
mandated duty.  His ruling is opposed by another religious leader, the 
Grand Mufti, who is the official representative of Islam in the 
Government.  Nonetheless, the Sheikh's ruling may hamper government 
education efforts. 
   People with Disabilities 
There are approximately 5.7 million disabled persons, of whom 1.5 
million are severely disabled.  The Government makes serious efforts to 
address their rights.  It works closely with United Nations agencies and 
other international aid donors to design job-training programs for the 
disabled.  The Government also seeks to increase the public's awareness 
of the capabilities of the disabled in television programming, the print 
media, and in educational material in public schools.  By law, all 
businesses must designate 5 percent of their jobs for the disabled, who 
are exempt from normal literacy requirements.  Although there is no 
legislation mandating access to public accommodations and 
transportation, the disabled may ride government-owned mass transit 
buses without charge, are given priority in obtaining telephones, and 
receive reductions on customs duties for private vehicles. 
   Religious Minorities 
The Constitution provides that all citizens are equal before the law and 
prohibits discrimination based on religion.  For the most part these 
constitutional protections are upheld by the Government.  Yet, 
discriminatory practices against Christians still exist. 
The approximately 5.5 million Coptic Christians are the objects of 
occasional violent assaults by Muslim extremists.  During the year, 
extremists were responsible for killing at least 30 Copts, most in the 
Minya governorate in upper Egypt, where about 30 to 40 percent of the 
inhabitants are Christian.  According to a senior police official in 
Minya, the extremists were carrying out a plan to assassinate prominent 
Coptic leaders.  Many Copts in Minya still fear for their safety. 
Extremists also have obstructed church repairs and construction and 
harassed Copt-owned businesses.  Some Christians have complained that 
the Government is lax in protecting Coptic lives and property.  Security 
forces arrest extremists who perpetrate violence against Copts, but some 
members of the Coptic community do not believe that the Government is 
vigorous in its efforts to prevent the attacks and does little to 
correct nonviolent forms of discrimination, including its own. 
There were several credible reports of forced conversions of Coptic 
children to Islam, allegedly carried out by Muslim extremists.  In one 
case, the father of a 15-year-old girl wrote to the Speaker of the Shura 
Council seeking his help in obtaining the return of his daughter, whom 
he claimed had been abducted by the Islamic Group in 1992 and forced to 
convert to Islam.  He claimed that the local government had refused to 
help him. 
Government discriminatory practices include:  suspected statistical 
underrepresentation of the size of the Christian population; anti-
Christian discrimination in education; a public school ban on the hiring 
of Christian Arabic teachers as the curriculum involves the study of the 
Koran; the production of some Islamic television programs with anti-
Christian themes; job discrimination in the public sector, the police, 
the armed forces, and other government agencies; reported discrimination 
against Christians in admission to state medical schools; and 
underrepresentation in government.  Although there are two Coptic 
Christians in the Cabinet, there are no Coptic governors and no Copts in 
the upper ranks of the military, police, or diplomatic service.  The 
ruling NDP nominated no Coptic candidates in the November parliamentary 
election. 
Section 6   Worker Rights 
   a.   The Right of Association 
Workers may join trade unions but are not required to do so.  A union 
local, or workers' committee, may be formed if 50 employees express a 
desire to organize.  Most union members, about 25 per cent of the labor 
force, are employed by state-owned enterprises.  The law stipulates that 
"high administrative" officials in government and the public sector may 
not join unions. 
There are 23 industrial unions, all required to belong to the Egyptian 
Trade Union Federation (ETUF), the sole legally recognized labor 
federation.  The International Labor Organization's (ILO) Committee of 
Experts (COE) repeatedly has emphasized that a law requiring all trade 
unions to belong to a single federation infringes on the freedom of 
association.  The Government has shown no sign that it intends to accept 
the establishment of more than one federation.  The ETUF leadership 
asserts that it actively promotes worker interests and that there is no 
need for another federation.  ETUF officials have close relations with 
the NDP, and some are members of the People's Assembly and the Shura 
Council.  They speak vigorously on behalf of worker concerns, but public 
confrontations between ETUF and the Government are rare.  Disputes are 
more often resolved by consensus behind closed doors. 
Some unions within ETUF are affiliated with international trade union 
organizations.  Others are in the process of doing so. 
The Government is currently reviewing a new labor law for submission to 
the People's Assembly.  The law is expected to be debated in the spring 
of 1996.  The proposed law provides statutory authorization for the 
rights to strike and to collective bargaining.  Under current labor laws 
such rights are not adequately guaranteed.  Even though the right to 
strike is not guaranteed, strikes occur.  The Government considers 
strikes a form of public disturbance and hence illegal. 
Several strikes occurred in 1995 at both private- and public-sector 
companies.  In August workers at a government-owned automobile factory 
staged a 3-day sit-in strike to protest a proposed cut in benefits.  
Although security forces appeared on the scene, no violence was 
reported, and the parties eventually reached a settlement. 
   b.   The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively 
The draft labor law provides statutory authorization for collective 
bargaining.  Under the current law, unions may negotiate work contracts 
with public sector enterprises if the latter agrees to such 
negotiations, but unions otherwise lack collective bargaining power in 
the state sector.  Under current circumstances, collective bargaining 
does not exist in any meaningful sense because the Government sets 
wages, benefits, and job classifications by law.  Larger firms in the 
private sector generally adhere to such government-mandated standards. 
Labor law and practice are the same in the export processing zones as in 
the rest of the country. 
   c.   Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor 
The criminal code authorizes sentences of hard labor for some crimes. 
   d.   Minimum Age for Employment of Children 
The minimum ages for employment are 12 in non-agricultural and 6 in 
agricultural work.  Education is compulsory until age 15.  An employee 
must be at least age 15 to join a labor union.  The Labor Law of 1981 
states that children age 12 to 15 may work 6 hours a day but not after 7 
p.m. and not in dangerous or physically demanding activities.  Child 
workers must obtain medical certificates and work permits before they 
are employed. 
The Minister of Health disclosed that 2 million children between the 
ages of 6 and 15 are employed.  A 1989 study estimated that perhaps 
720,000 children work on farms.  However, children also work as 
apprentices in repair and craft shops, in heavier industries such as 
brickmaking and textiles, and as workers in leather factories and 
carpet-making.  While local trade unions report that the Ministry of 
Labor adequately enforces the labor laws in state-owned enterprises, 
enforcement in the private sector, especially in family-owned 
enterprises, is lax. 
   e.   Acceptable Conditions of Work 
For government and public-sector employees, the minimum wage is 
approximately $20 (about 65 Egyptian pounds) a month for a 6-day, 48-
hour workweek.  Base pay is supplemented by a complex system of fringe 
benefits and bonuses that may double or triple a worker's take-home pay.  
It is doubtful that the average family could survive on a worker's base 
pay at the minimum wage rate.  The minimum wage is also legally binding 
on the private sector, and larger private companies generally observe 
the requirement and pay bonuses as well.  Smaller firms do not always 
pay the minimum wage or bonuses. 
The Ministry of Labor sets worker health and safety standards, which 
also apply in the export processing zones, but enforcement and 
inspection are uneven.  The law prohibits employers from maintaining 
hazardous working conditions and provides legal recourse for employees 
who are asked to work in such conditions. 
(###)

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