Seeking Justice

Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Justice category.

Positive Developments in Egypt

As described in detail on the blog The Baha’i Faith in Egypt, the Egyptian government is proceeding with granting Egyptian Baha’is identification cards in an orderly manner.  This positive development follows the January 29, 2008 ruling of Cairo’s Court of Administrative Justice allowing Baha’is to obtain ID cards with dashes in the religion field, and the March 16, 2009 final ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt denying an appeal of the January 2008 ruling and upholding the right of Baha’is to obtain identification documents.

These developments reflect the promotion of justice and tolerance by both the Egyptian judiciary and the executive arm of the Egyptian government responsible for enforcing the court decisions and issuing the cards, and indicate that Egypt is on a path to treating its citizens with dignity and respect and allowing them to contribute on equal footing to the advancement of Egyptian civilization.


Egyptian Children Still Awaiting Justice

swtalomanewspaper23-4-2007e_n.jpgThe case of Emad and Nancy, the Egyptian twins who have been denied birth certificates due to their religious beliefs, has been postponed yet again. A detailed account of the court proceeding can be found here. It is growing increasingly apparant that one of the tactics being utilized by the Egyptian judiciary to perpetuate this injustice is that of delay. What reason could justify the continual postponement of the determination of the rights of these children? There are no new factual issues arising, no new legal developments affecting the court’s deliberations. The fact is that every day that the decision is delayed is a day that these chilren continue to be denied access to public school due to their lack of birth certificates.

The Egyptian court would do well to review Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Egypt is a signatory, which states:

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

This, taken in conjuction with Article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution, which provides that “education is a right guaranteed by the state” leads one to the inevitable conclusion that these children are entitled to an effective remedy by the Egyptian court. These continued delays are an affront not only to the children involved, but also to the dignity of the Egyptian judiciary. Let us hope that the court will rise to the level of performing the function of a competent national tribunal.

Egypt’s Constitutional Proclamation: Ideals to Strive For

Previous posts on this blog, examining the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court of Egypt to deny the Baha’is of Egypt access to identification cards, have focused on how this action is a gross violation of Egypt’s obligations under international declarations and covenants to which it is a signatory, and how the reasoning of the Court totally obscured the actual issue that was before it. In addition, the Court’s decision is incompatible with the lofty principles enunciated in Egypt’s own Constitution, the seminal legal document upon which the laws of Egypt are founded and to which the Court’s legal analysis is bound.

The Egyptian Constitution begins with a Constitutional Proclamation, setting forth the principles upon which the rest of the Constitution is based. In the Constitutional Proclamation, we find the following:

We, the Egyptian people, in the name of God and with His assistance pledge to indefinitely and unconditionally exert every effort to realise:

Peace to our world:
Being determined that peace can only be based on justice and that political and social progress of all peoples can only be realized through the freedom and independent will of these peoples, and that any civilization is not worthy of its name unless it is free from exploitation whatever its form. (emphasis added)

These words provide much food for thought concerning the decision of the Court to deny the Baha’is of Egypt access to national identification cards–preventing them from gaining access to health care, employment, and education, among other basic civil rights–solely on the basis of their religious belief. The proclamation asserts that “social progress of all peoples can only be realized through the freedom and independent will of these peoples.” Where is the freedom and independent will in forcing citizens of Egypt to identify themselves as members of one of only three religions–Christianity, Judaism, or Islam–in order to obtain identification cards? What effect might this have on the “social progress of all peoples?”

Moreover, consider the statement that “any civilization is not worthy of its name unless it is free from exploitation whatever its form.” Exploitation is commonly defined as using someone else unfairly to your own advantage, but, as the Proclamation states, it can take many forms, all of which are pernicious. One example of the exploitation that the Baha’is of Egypt face, pointed out recently on Bilo’s blog, is that despite the fact that the Egyptian Baha’is are being denied access to basic civil rights on account of their religious belief, they are still required to pay taxes to the government of Egypt. As one commentator put it, the Egyptian Baha’is have been rendered faithless and stateless, and yet the government is still trying to wring a few last drops of pecuniary benefit out of them.

As the Proclamation rightly points out, to be worthy of classification as a civilization, the Egyptian government must rise to abolish this exploitation, which it could do with minimal effort, by allowing Egyptian Baha’is to place a “dash” in the religion field of their identication card paperwork. Thus would the actions of the Egyptian government be increasingly harmonized with the clear principles upon which its own Constitution is founded.

Promoting Freedom, Justice, and Peace

In addition to being a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Egypt is also a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Egypt signed the International Covenant on August 4, 1967 and ratified it on January 14, 1982. This noble document is premised on the notion that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” This lofty statement places into broader context the nature and ramifications of the denial of a group of Egyptian citizens access to identification cards entitling them to basic civil rights solely on the basis of their adherence to the Baha’i Faith.

In unambiguous terms, Article 2 of the Covenant states that each signatory must safeguard the rights of all human beings in its territory:

Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. (emphasis added)

Among the rights recognized in the Covenant, is the following, contained in Article 18:

Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice. (emphasis added)

Given that Egypt is a signatory to the Covenant containing these protections and guarantees, it is difficult to conceive of a basis on which the Egyptian government could justify a denial of the request of the Baha’is of Egypt to be able to include a “dash” in the religion section of their identification cards, in order to obtain the cards and the basic civil rights to which their holders are entitled.

One hopes that the Egyptian government will soon rise to meet its responsibility to recognize the inherent dignity of all of the citizens of Egypt, regardless of creed, under this glorious Covenant, and thereby play its part in building the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

Welcome to our blog!

This blog is inspired by a principle shared by all religions–the need to seek truth and promote justice. In this spirit, our goal is to understand in greater depth the current situation of the Baha’is of Egypt and their efforts to obtain basic human rights. We look forward to your collaboration in this inquiry!