Report on Human Rights
Practices for 1996--Egypt
According to its Constitution, Egypt is a social democracy in
which Islam is the state religion. However, the National Democratic
Party (NDP), has governed since its establishment in 1978, has
used its entrenched position to dominate national politics, and
maintains a wide majority in the popularly elected People's Assembly
and the partially elected Shura (Consultative) Council. 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. The judiciary is independent.
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. The use
of violence by security forces in the campaign against terrorists
appeared more limited this year than in previous years. The security
forces committed numerous serious human rights abuses.
Egypt continued to move from a command economy to a free market
system. Manufacturing is still dominated by the public sector.
The Government began accelerating its privatization program during
the year. Agriculture remains the largest employer in the economy
and is almost entirely in private hands. Transfers and remittances
from approximately 2 million Egyptians working abroad are the
largest source of foreign currency earnings. In 1995 tourism
surpassed petroleum as the second largest hard currency earner
and preliminary data for 1996 suggest a continued strong rebound
of the tourism sector. 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 significantly, and built up substantial reserves. The success
of the reform efforts has resulted in an increase in annual economic
growth rates to 4.8 percent for fiscal year 1995-96 and 5.1 percent
estimated for fiscal year 1996-97.
The Government continued to commit numerous serious abuses, although
its human rights record improved somewhat over the past year.
The Emergency Law, which has been in effect since 1981, continues
to restrict many basic rights. The ruling NDP dominates the political
scene to such an extent that citizens 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 continue to mistreat and torture
prisoners, arbitrarily arrest and detain persons, hold detainees
in prolonged pretrial detention, and occasionally engage in mass
arrests. Aside from the antiterrorist campaign, local police
abused common criminal suspects. However, security forces committed
fewer abuses than in the previous year. The Government took disciplinary
action against 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.
The Government again tried members of the Muslim Brotherhood
in military courts on charges of illegal political activities,
continuing to expand the jurisdiction of the military courts beyond
terrorism-related offenses. The Government used the emergency
law to infringe on citizens' privacy rights. Although citizens
generally express themselves freely, the Government continues
to place significant limitations on freedom of the press. Some
of the harsher penalties of the 1995 press law were suspended;
however, state prosecutors brought libel charges, some under the
old law, against several journalists for criticizing corruption
and abuse of authority among government officials and their families.
The Government restricts freedom of assembly and association,
and does not legally recognize local human rights groups, but
which are allowed to operate openly. The Government places limits
on the freedom of religion.
Women and Christians face discrimination based on tradition and
some aspects of the law. Terrorist violence against Christians
was a problem. Violence against women is a problem. Worker rights
are not adequately protected. A new child labor law increases
protections for children, but child labor remains widespread despite
the government's efforts to eradicate it. Abuse by employers
continues, and stricter government enforcement of the law is necessary.
In a significant breakthrough, the Government issued a decree
banning the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), developed
a program to address the problem, and increased efforts to educate
the public as to its dangers.
Terrorists committed numerous serious abuses. Terrorist groups
seeking to overthrow the Government and establish an Islamic state
continued their attacks on police, Coptic Christians, and tourists.
In April terrorists killed a group of 18 Greek tourists in Cairo;
13 Greeks and 2 Egyptians were wounded. Terrorists groups were
responsible for the majority of the 132 civilian and police deaths,
and committed bank and jewelry store robberies to get funds.
They also attacked police, a train, and riverboats, mostly in
upper (southern) Egypt.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political killings by government officials;
however, extrajudicial killings may have occured in certain antiterrorist
There were no total figures for deaths in custody from government
or human rights sources by year's end. Human rights groups were
investigating eight deaths in police custody, six of which they
believed were due to medical negligence, one to suicide, and one
as a result of a beating or being tortured to death. They are
also investigating 13 prison deaths related to medical negligence
(see Section 1.c.).
In antiterrorist operations, the security forces killed 34 suspected
terrorists; there were no reports of excessive use of lethal force.
At least one civilian bystander was reported killed inadvertently
by security forces. No suspects died while attempting to escape
arrest. There were no reports of killings of relatives of suspected
extremists in apparent vendettas.
The case against a policeman charged with torture and use of excessive
force in the 1994 death of a detainee remained pending (see Section
In January state prosecutors ruled in the case of the 1994 death
in custody of Amre Mohamed Safwat that there was no felony case.
The prosecutors, however, ordered a reprimand for the head of
the Ain Shams Cairo police station and the director of the hospital
involved for violating the rules of admission to the hospital.
An appeal by the family is currently under investigation by the
Technical (Human Rights) Office of the Ministry of Justice. There
were no new developments in the case of Mohammed Abdel Hamid Hassan,
who reportedly died in police custody in 1994.
Terrorist groups were responsible for the majority of the deaths
in civil unrest. They killed 132 persons, compared with 200 in
1995. This total included 48 police and security officers as
well as 84 civilians. Terrorist attacks directed specifically
against Coptic Christians continued, killing at least 22, including
a group of 8 in Assiyut in February. They also attacked churches
and other properties owned by Christians. In April four gunmen
belonging to the extremist Islamic group Al-Gamma'a Al-Islamiyya
attacked a group of Greek tourists at the entrance to the Europa
Hotel near the pyramids. The terrorists killed 18 of the visitors,
and wounded 13 other tourists and 2 Egyptians before escaping.
Terrorists also attacked a passenger train in Minya in January
and were involved in a number of bank and jewelry store robberies,
mostly in upper Egypt. While the Europa Hotel attack brought
the largest casualty count from a single incident in Egypt's modern
history, the total number of deaths from extremist violence was
sharply down in 1996 after increasing steadily during the previous
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
Of the 11 individuals that local human rights groups claimed had
disappeared in 1994 and the 1 cited in 1995, 8 have since been
located in detention facilities, but 4 remain missing. The Government
has not responded to queries from human rights monitors regarding
the outstanding cases.
There were no concrete developments in the case of Mansur Kikhya,
a former Libyan Foreign Minister and a prominent exiled dissident,
who disappeared in Cairo in 1993.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
The Constitution prohibits the infliction of "physical or
moral harm" upon persons who have been arrested or detained.
However, abuse and torture of detainees by police, security personnel,
and prison guards is common.
Under the Penal Code, torture of a defendant or orders to torture
are felonies punishable by temporary hard labor or 3 to 10 years
imprisonment. If the defendant dies, the crime is one of intentional
murder punishable by a life sentence at hard labor. The crime
of arrest without due cause through threat of death or physical
torture is punishable by temporary hard labor. The use of cruelty
against people by relying on one's position is punishable by imprisonment
of no more than 1 year or a fine of no more that $65.00.
Despite these legal safeguards, there were numerous credible reports
of mistreatment and torture by security forces, although fewer
than in previous years. Reports of mistreatment and torture at
police stations remain frequent.
In a June interview, the Minister of Interior stated that human
rights was taught as a subject at the National Police Academy,
and that police officers responsible for human rights infractions
must be brought to trial and punished or administratively reprimanded
in accordance with the law. While the Government has investigated
torture complaints in criminal cases and punished some offending
officers, the punishments are not in line with the seriousness
of the offense. However, government officials have stated that
administrative punishments can be severe enough to prevent further
career advancement, and that some police officers have opted to
face criminal charges instead. 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
involved in counterterrorist operations.
Reports of torture on the part of the SSIS dropped during the
year. However, torture has reportedly taken place in police stations;
SSIS offices, including its headquarters in Cairo; and at Central
Security Force camps. Torture victims usually are taken to a
SSIS office where they are handcuffed, blindfolded, and questioned
about their associations, religious beliefs, and political views.
Torture is used to extract information, coerce the victims to
end their antigovernment activities, and deter others from such
activities. While the law requires security authorities to keep
written records of detained citizens, human rights groups report
that such records often are not available, not found, or the police
deny any knowledge of the detainee when they inquire about specific
cases, effectively blocking the investigation of torture complaints.
Egyptian human rights groups and victims report a number of 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 remained pending before the
south Cairo Criminal Court.
In early 1995, the Public Prosecutor's office began an investigation
into the case of Gamal El-Shazly, who allegedly had been tortured
in December 1994, in a police station in Manshayit Nasser, a poor
district of Cairo. The case remains under investigation.
Prison conditions remain poor. Despite the completion of five
new prisons in 1995, human rights groups report that overcrowding
and unhealthy conditions continue. The use of torture and other
mistreatment, lack of medical care, the banning of visits, and
substandard living conditions are reportedly common. Prisoners
have claimed that their cells are poorly ventilated, their food
is inadequate in quantity and nutritional value, and medical services
are often unavailable. Health conditions in the High Security
Prison ("The Scorpion") at Tora reportedly include widespread
tuberculosis among the inmates. At the same prison, in June,
40 inmates were ordered to strip and were flogged, after 3 contraband
items were found during an inspection of the prison. Human rights
groups are investigating 13 prison deaths related to medical negligence.
Prisoners at two high security prisons, the New Valley Prison
and Torah Prison, reported receiving physical and psychological
abuse known as a "reception party" upon their arrival
at prison. 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.
The Ministry of Interior stated that the ban on prison visits
by relatives and lawyers at a number of prisons, including Fayyom
and the High Security Prison, has been lifted. Human rights groups
report, however, that visits have been refused at several prisons.
At others, restrictions have been placed on visits to political
or extremist prisoners, limiting the number of visits allowed
each prisoner, and the total number of visitors allowed in the
prison at any one time. Human rights monitors are allowed to
visit prisoners, but often face considerable bureaucratic obstacles
before obtaining the proper paperwork.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
As part of the Government's antiterrorist campaign, security forces
conducted mass arrests and detained hundreds of individuals without
charge after specific terrorist incidents. Under the provisions
of the Emergency Law, which has been in effect since 1981, 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.
In addition to the Emergency Law, the Penal Code also gives the
State wide detention powers. Under the code, prosecutors must
bring charges within 24 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."
Human rights groups reported that hundreds, and according to one
report, thousands, of people detained under the Emergency Law
have been incarcerated for up to several years without charge.
The courts have ordered the release of a number of these detainees,
but prison officials have reportedly ignored the orders. Frequently,
the Ministry of Interior reissues detention orders, sending detainees
back to prison.
In March the Government lifted a 2-year dusk-to-dawn curfew on
Mallawi and several surrounding villages in Minya province.
During the year, security forces and police arrested at least
120 members of the Muslim Brotherhood (an Islamist opposition
organization) as well as 200 members of a new group, the Qutbiyoun,
described as an offshoot of the Brotherhood. The charges ranged
from inciting the masses against the Government, to distributing
illegal leaflets and membership in an illegal organization. An
undetermined number of Muslim Brothers were brought to trial during
the year (see Section 1.e.).
Neither the Government nor human rights groups were able to provide
firm figures for the total prison population. One human rights
group cited a government figure of 12,000 registered and serving
sentences, but provided a rough estimate of 32,000 for the total
prison population, including those being held pending sentencing.
However, in a June interview in the weekly magazine Al-Wasat,
Interior Minister Hasan Al-Alfy asserted that the number of political
detainees was considerably less than 10,000. The Minister also
noted that 1,600 repentant convicted terrorists had been released
during the previous few months.
The Government does not use forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The judiciary is independent. 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, and chaired by the President of the Court of Cassation.
The Council regulates judicial promotions and transfers. In
the last few years, the Government has added lectures on human
rights and other social issues to its training courses for prosecutors
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. Misdemeanors, that are
punishable by imprisonment, are heard at the first level by one
judge; at the second level by three judges. Felonies, that are
punishable by imprisonment or execution, are heard in criminal
court by three judges. Contestations of rulings are heard by
the Court of Cassation. A lawyer will be appointed at the court's
expense if the defendant does not have one. The appointment of
lawyers is based on a roster chosen by the Bar Association; however,
expenses are incurred by the State. Any denial of this right
is cause for contestation of the ruling. However, detainees in
certain high-security prisons alleged that they were denied access
to counsel, or that such access was delayed until trial, thus
denying counsel the time to prepare an adequate defense.
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. However, while the judiciary generally
is credited with conducting fair trials, 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 protections of the judicial system.
The majority of terrorist cases were again referred to Supreme
State Security Emergency courts this year. High-profile cases
involving Muslim Brotherhood members and a large number of terrorists
went to military courts.
In the past, human rights groups and defense lawyers have claimed
that the Government intimidated lawyers representing terrorist
suspects by detaining and questioning them on the activities of
their clients. There were no such reports during the year.
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 January to December, the Government referred approximately
66 civilian defendants to the military courts in five separate
During the year security forces detained 13 members of the Muslim
Brotherhood on suspicion of engaging in illegal political activities.
The Government referred the Muslim Brotherhood detainees to trial
in a military court on charges of membership in an illegal organization,
maintaining links to terrorists, and planning to overthrow the
Government. In an August decision, the court acquitted five.
The remainder were found guilty of the charges--seven were sentenced
to from 7 months' to 3 years' imprisonment, and 1 to a suspended
1 year prison term (for health reasons).
In January 24 defendants accused of involvement in terrorist plots
were brought to trial before a military court. The court acquitted
six, sentenced six others to death, and sentenced the remainder
to prison terms ranging from 3 to 15 years.
In November a higher military court in Assiyut handed down verdicts
on 10 defendants accused of infiltrating Egypt and attempting
to smuggle and sell weapons to terrorists. The court acquitted
3 defendants, sentenced 4 to life imprisonment at hard labor,
and the remaining 3 to prison terms ranging from 10 to 15 years.
Two trials of 19 defendants from the Islamic Group opened in December
at a supreme military court in Cairo. The first trial involved
3 defendants accused of attempting to assassinate the Military
Prosecutor in 1993. In the second trial, 19 defendants, including
the 3 defendants in the first trial as well as 16 others, are
accused of killing a policeman, assaulting persons at two movie
theaters in Helwan, and wounding 16 persons, including 8 tourists,
during an attack on a tourist bus in Cairo in 1994.
In response to an appeal, the Supreme Court, as it did in 1993,
found that the President may invoke the emergency law to refer
any crime to a military court.
The Government defends the use of military courts as necessary
in terrorism cases, maintaining that trials in the civilian courts
are protracted, and that civilian judges and their families are
vulnerable to terrorist threats. Some civilian judges have confirmed
that they fear trying high-visibility terrorism cases because
of possible reprisals. 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 as independent as civilian judges in applying the civilian
Penal Code. There is no appellate process for verdicts by military
courts; instead, verdicts are subject to 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
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. Sentences are subject to confirmation
by the President but cannot be appealed. The President may alter
or annul the decision of a state security court, including a decision
to release a defendant. In 1996 state security courts tried at
least 9 cases involving over 175 defendants charged with terrorist
There are no reliable statistics on the number of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home,
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.
However, the Emergency Law has abridged the constitutional provisions
regarding the right to privacy. The 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
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and the press,
however, the Government continues to place limitations on these
rights. Citizens openly speak their views on a wide range of
political and social issues, including vigorous criticism of the
The Government owns stock in the three largest daily newspapers
and the President appoints their editors in chief and chairmen
of the board. However, although these papers generally follow
the Government line, they frequently criticize government policies.
The Government also enjoys a monopoly on the printing and distribution
of newspapers including the opposition parties' papers. The Government
has been known to use its monopolistic control of newsprint to
limit output of opposition publications.
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, the daily Al-Ahrar, and Al-Shaab,
the semiweekly of the Islamist-oriented Socialist Labor Party.
All have small circulations. Opposition newspapers frequently
publish 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
The Penal Code, Law 93 of 1995, the Press Authority Law, and the
Publications Law govern press issues. The laws stipulate substantial
fines for criticism of the President, members of the Government,
and foreign heads of state. The Constitution restricts ownership
of newspapers to public or private legal entities, corporate bodies,
and political parties. However, there are numerous restrictions
on legal entities that wish to estabish their own newspapers.
Papers published outside Egypt can be distributed with government
Libel laws provide protection against malicious rumor-mongering
and unsubstantiated reporting. Jail terms may be imposed. Financial
penalties increased substantially under Law 93 of 1995, although
the judicial process remains long and costly, creating a bar to
realistic legal recourse for those wrongly defamed. 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. Most cases involving the press
are brought by the Government, usually involving rumors or charges
of corruption against members of the families of government officials.
On several occasions in 1996, the Government detained and interrogated
editors and journalists for publishing allegations of official
misconduct and corruption.
In June 1995, an amendment to Law 93 was passed, stiffening penalties
for and broadening the definition of criminal libel. Following
a series of protests by the press syndicate, and a direct appeal
to President Mubarak, he set aside this amendment in June. However,
the Government continues to prosecute journalists under the law
in effect at the time charges were filed. The process of determining
whether the applicable sections of the law have been set aside
is time-consuming and exprensive. Approximately 42 journalists
are in various stages of prosecution under Law 93.
In July a court sentenced Magdy Ahmad Hussein, editor of the Islamic
fundamentalist newspaper Al-Shaab, to a 1-year suspended sentence
for libeling the son of Interior Minister Hassan Alfi. He was
also ordered to pay a fine of
15,000 Egyptian pounds.
Various ministries are legally authorized to ban or confiscate
books and other works of art, upon obtaining a court order. 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
In January 1995, 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. The same year, President Mubarak stated that the Government
would not allow confiscation of books from the market without
a court order, a position supported by the then-Grand Mufti, who
is now the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar.
There were no court ordered confiscations during the year. However,
two books were seized by police in June without a court order,
after officials at Al-Azhar ruled that they should be banned for
violating religious laws and norms. In August the police also
seized five books on Shi'a Islam from Cairo bookstores, without
a court order.
The Ministry of Interior regularly confiscates leaflets and other
works by Muslim fundamentalists. It also has the authority to
stop specific issues of foreign published newspapers from entering
the country on the grounds of protecting public order. The Ministry
of Defense may ban works about sensitive security issues.
The Council of Ministers may order the banning of works that it
deems offensive to public morals, detrimental to religion, or
likely to cause a breach of the peace.
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.
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 the country 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
Two films are currently in the courts. "The Emigrant"
was banned this year after a long court case, but the decision
is under appeal. A group of Islamic lawyers had brought the case
in 1994, arguing that it violated Islamic tenets in its portrayal
of the life of the Prophet Joseph. Despite the court case, the
film has represented Egypt in several international festivals.
The second case is against the film "Birds of Darkness,"
the plaintiffs charging that it is insulting to lawyers. The
case is still pending.
The Ministry of Information owns and operates all domestic television
productions. In the past, it has censored serious artistic works
that criticized the Government or dealt with social problems from
a nongovernmental perspective. The Ministry also censored nine
articles of the English language weekly, The Middle East Times,
during the year. Two of the articles had contained allegations
of human rights violations. According to the editor, in October
an issue of the newspaper al-Dustuur was confiscated because of
previously published criticism of the Israeli Government.
Moderate Muslims and secularist writers continue to find themselves
under attack by Islamic extremists.
In August the Court of Cassation, Egypt's highest court of appeal,
supported a 1995 lower court ruling against Cairo University professor
Nasr Abu Zeid. In 1993 Islamic fundamentalist lawyers had asked
the courts to rule that Abu Zeid was an apostate because of his
controversial interpretation of Koranic teachings. 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 1995
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 had joined Abu Zeid in his appeal, and the People's
Assembly passed two laws during the year designed to derail other
such lawsuits. The Hisba Law, ratified by the Assembly in late
January, limits cases by third parties "on behalf of society."
The Assembly also approved in May amendments to an article of
the Law for Civil and Commercial Procedures requiring the direct
personal involvement of the plaintiff prior to the filing of suits.
In its decision, the Court of Cassation, which rules on legal
technicalities rather than the case itself, noted that the Hisba
Law and Law 81 were issued after final arguments were made by
the plaintiffs and the defense, and that the case and the lower
court ruling were legally valid. Abu Zeid's defense team has
filed for a reconsideration by the Court of Cassation, citing
major mistakes in the decision against Abu Zeid, including the
Court's ignoring of the Hisba Law and Law 81. In September a
lower court judge stayed the execution of the decision against
Abu Zeid pending the outcome of the reconsideration by the Court
of Cassation. Meanwhile, Abu Zeid and his wife are residing together
abroad. In December a Giza court of appeal upheld their stay.
In another Hisba case, a Cairo criminal court ruled against and
fined two lawyers who brought a case against the actress Youssra
and a magazine for printing an allegedly indecent picture of her
on the cover.
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.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Government continues to maintain substantial restrictions
on freedom of assembly. 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 Government continues to maintain substantial restrictions
on freedom of association. Under Law 32 of 1964, the Ministry
of Social Affairs has extensive authority over 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). Amnesty International, which had a petition
pending for legal status for its local office, closed its local
office this year for internal reasons.
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
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice
of religious rites. However, the Government places clear restrictions
on this right. Most Egyptians are Muslim, but at least 10 per
cent of the population, 5.7 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 individuals.
For the most part, members of the non-Muslim minority worship
without harassment and maintain links with coreligionists 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. While
technically proselytizing is not a crime, Christians have been
arrested on charges of ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions
and/or inciting secular strife. At least one Christian was detained
in 1996 on charges of ridiculing or insulting heavenly religions
and/or inciting secular strife.
There are no restrictions on non-Muslims converting to Islam.
However, Muslims face legal problems if they convert to another
faith. Authorities have charged a few converts to Christianity
under provisions of the Penal Code that 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.
There were no confirmed reports of individuals detained during
the year under these laws.
There were credible reports that state security officers in Cairo
detained, interrogated, and, in at least two cases, physically
abused several Christians and converts to Christianity, in an
effort to obtain information about the identities and activities
of other converts.
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. Other
restrictions of the 1856 Decree were codified in 1934 into a list
of 10 provisions that the police and other authorities should
investigate prior to issuance of a presidential decree. A local
human rights organization brought a legal case during the year
requesting the abolition of the Ottoman Decree against Copts,
including abolition of the 10 provisions. The case remains before
As a result of these restrictions, some communities use private
buildings and apartments for religious services. Between 1992
and 1995, the situation 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. During the year,
the Government issued 10 permits for the construction of new churches
and 8 for repairs and reconstruction. While Christian and Muslim
reformers urge the abolition of the Ottoman Decree, Islamists
who oppose the spread of Christianity in Egypt defend the building
In 1994 the Alexandria government closed two buildings near the
city that 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
The Government continued its 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, slightly less than 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 the remaining 30,000 unauthorized mosques
under its control during the next 5 years.
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. The Government during the year removed
the requirement for most foreigners to register within 7 days
of their arrival in Egypt. Males who have not completed compulsory
military service may not travel abroad or emigrate, although this
restriction can be deferred or bypassed. Unmarried women must
have permission from their fathers to obtain passports and travel;
married women of any age require the same permission from their
husbands. Citizens who leave the country have the right to return.
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. Sharaf Al Din was imprisoned
for 8 months while prosecutors investigated the circumstances
of his conversion. He was released without charge in June 1995.
However, according to a local human rights group, in order to
leave Egypt he is required to file a lawsuit in order to obtain
a court order that indicates that he is not banned from leaving
The Constitution forbids the deportation of citizens and aliens
granted political asylum. Egypt grants first asylum for humanitarian
reasons or in the event of internal turmoil in neighboring countries.
Asylum seekers generally are screened by representatives of the
United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees (UNHCR), whose recommendations
regarding settlement are forwarded to the Ministries of Interior
and Foreign Affairs for final determination. Refugees accepted
by the Government are permitted to live and work, but cannot acquire
Egyptian citizenship, with rare exceptions. During the year,
the Government accepted over 6,000 refugees, including 3,000 Somalis
and 1,400 Sudanese, for temporary resettlement.
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.
Over 100 losing candidates in the fall 1995 legislative elections
filed complaints in the administrative courts, alleging ballot-rigging
and other irregularities. The courts agreed with most of these
claims, but while the courts have the authority to rule on whether
irregularities took place, they may not remove an elected Member
of the Assembly, a right that the Assembly claims solely for itself,
under the concept of parliamentary sovereignty. To date the Assembly
has not called for any new by-elections to cover these cases.
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. The Parties
Committee rejected the applications of at least four new parties
this year; those applications and several from last year are before
the courts for review.
According to the law, which prohibits political parties based
on religion, the Muslim Brotherhood is an illegal political organization.
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.
Women and minorities are underrepresented in government and politics.
The Constitution reserves 10 Assembly seats for presidential
appointees, which the President traditionally has used to assure
representation for women and Coptic Christians. Five women and
no Copts were elected in 1995; of the 10 presidential appointments,
6 were Copts and 4 were women. The ruling NDP nominated no Coptic
candidates in the 1995 parliamentary election. Three women and
two Coptic Christians are in the Cabinet.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International
and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
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, EOHR's parent organization,
has a long-standing request for registration as a foreign organization
with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The issue remains pending.
A request by Amnesty International for legal status for its local
chapter had been pending with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
for 6 years, until the office was closed for internal reasons.
In the meantime it was 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.
Representatives from EOHR met this year with Speaker of the Assembly
Fathy Sorour. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs facilitated entry
into the country for Africans in a training seminar held by EOHR,
and the Supreme Constitutional Court cosponsored a seminar on
There were no reports during the year that the Government banned
meetings of human rights groups, although the Government has on
occasion made the holding of such meetings difficult. Some human
rights organizations have found requests for conference space
turned down for "security reasons" or reservations later
canceled for "maintenance reasons."
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 (see Section 2.b.)
In 1995 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. 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.
Family violence against women occurs and is reflected in press
accounts of specific incidents. According to recent statistics,
one out of every three women who have ever been married has been
beaten at least once during marriage. Among those who have been
beaten, less than half have ever sought help. In general neighbors
and extended family members intervene to limit incidents of domestic
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. "Honor killings" are not prevalent, but when
they do occur, the punishment is generally lighter that in other
cases of murder.
The law provides for equality of the sexes, but aspects of the
law and many traditional practices discriminate against women.
By law unmarried women under 21 must have permission from their
fathers to obtain passports and travel; married women of any age
require the same permission from their husbands (see Section 2.d.).
Only males can confer citizenship. In rare cases, this means
that children born to Egyptian mothers and stateless fathers are
Laws affecting marriage and personal status generally correspond
to an individual's religion, which is Islam for most Egyptians.
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. A new marriage contract for Muslim women was proposed
in 1995, to replace the current one drafted in 1931. It stipulates
premarital negotiations on a wide variety of issues, including
the woman's right to work, study and travel abroad, and divorce
settlements. Government approval is still pending.
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 face strong
social pressure to provide for all family members who need assistance.
However, this does not always occur.
Women have employment opportunities in government, medicine, law,
academia, the arts, and, to a lesser degree, in business. According
to government figures, women constitute 17 percent of private
business owners, and occupy 25 percent of the managerial positions
in the four major national banks. There are 123 women officers
in the Egyptian diplomatic service, including 6 ambassadors and
7 consuls general. There are 3 women state counselors in the
administrative court system. However, there are no women state
prosecutors or judges in the civil court system. 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 womens' advocates
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.
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 (see Section 6.d.). The Government provides public education,
which is compulsory until the age of 15. In education the Government
treats boys and girls equally at all levels of education, although
only 74 percent of girls attend school. Literacy rates reflect
this disparity: Female literacy is 34 percent, while male literacy
is 63 percent.
The Government enacted a new Child Law in March. The law provides
for more privileges, protection, and care for children in general.
Six of the laws's 144 articles set advantageous rules for working
children (see Section 6.d.). Other provisions include: Employers
to set up or contract with a child care center if they employ
more than 100 women; the right of rehabilitation for disabled
children; defendants between the ages of 16 and 18 may not be
sentenced to capital punishment, hard labor for life, or temporary
hard labor; and defendants under the age of 15 may not be placed
in preventive custody although the prosecution may order that
they be lodged in an "observation house" and be summoned
In July following the death by hemorrhage of an 11-year-old girl,
the Minister of Health and Population issued a decree calling
for an end to the practice of FGM and prohibiting its performance
by nonmedical and medical practioners. 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. A recent
study places the percentage of Egyptian women who have undergone
FGM at 97 percent. The act is generally performed on girls between
the ages of 7 and 10, probably with equal prevalence among Muslims
and Coptic Christians. 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.
A discussion of FGM and its dangers is being added to the curriculum
at medical schools and in training courses given to traditional
birth attendants. The new Sheik of Al-Azhar, the senior Muslim
leader in the country, has stated that FGM is not required by
Islamic tenets. However, despite strong government efforts to
eradicate it, it is unlikely that the practice will disappear
quickly due to traditional and family pressures.
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 by using television programming, the print media, and
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.
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.
However, discrimination against Christians still exist.
The approximately 5.7 million Coptic Christians are the objects
of occasional violent assaults by Muslim extremists. During the
year, extremists were responsible for killing at least 22 Copts,
most in the Minya and Assiuyut governorates in upper Egypt, where
about 30 to 40 percent of the inhabitants are Christian. Acts
of violence also were reported against churches and Copt-owned
businesses; some carried out by extremists, but others committed
by ordinary citizens. Rumors of church repairs or building without
permits occasionally resulted in anti-Christian rioting by citizens.
In one incident in the delta village of Kafr Demyan, local newspapers
reported that the rioters were incited by Muslim preachers who
utilized mosque loudspeakers to call for retaliation against the
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 attacks and does little to
correct nonviolent forms of discrimination, including its own.
There were reports of forced conversions of Coptic children to
Islam, but even human rights groups find it extremely difficult
to determine the actual degree of compulsion used, as most cases
involve a Coptic girl converting to Islam to marry a Muslim boy.
According to the Government, the girl in such cases must meet
with her family, with her priest, and with the head of her church
before she is allowed to convert. However, there are credible
reports of government harassment of Christian families attempting
to regain custody of their daughters, and of the failure of the
authorities to uphold the law that states that a marriage of a
girl under 16 is prohibited and between the ages of 16 and 21
is illegal without the approval and presence of her guardian.
Government discriminatory practices include: Suspected statistical
underrepresentation of the size of the Christian population; anti-Christian
discrimination in education; failure to admit Christians into
schools of Arabic studies to become Arabic teachers since the
curriculum involves 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 staff appointments at universities; and their underrepresentation
in government. There are no Coptic governors and no Copts in
the upper ranks of the military, police, or diplomatic service.
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 Committee
of Experts 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 or 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.
The labor laws do not adequately provide statutory authorization
for the rights to strike and to engage in collective bargaining.
Even though the right to strike is not guaranteed, strikes occur.
The Government considers strikes a form of public disturbance
and hence illegal.
Only a few strikes took place in either the public or private
sector during the year, mainly over wage and dismissal questions.
No violence was reported in any of the strikes.
Some unions within ETUF are affiliated with international trade
union organizations. Others are in the process of becoming affiliated.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Under the law, unions may negotiate work contracts with public
sector enterprises if the latter agree 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
Labor law and practice are the same in the export processing zones
(EPZ's) as in the rest of the country.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The criminal code authorizes sentences of hard labor for some
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
Under the new Child Law (see Section 5), the minimum age for employment
is 14 in non-agricultural work. Provincial governors, with the
approval of the Minister of Agriculture, can authorize seasonal
work for children between the ages of 12 to 14 years, provided
that duties are not hazardous and do not interfere with schooling.
Preemployment training for children under the age of 12 is prohibited.
It is prohibited for children to work for more than 6 hours a
day, including 1 or more breaks totaling at least 1 hour. Children
are not to work overtime, during their weekly day off, between
8 pm and 7 am, or more than 4 hours continuously. Education is
compulsory until the age of 15.
Ministry of Health figures for 1995 indicate 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 and carpet-making factories. 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. Many of these
children are abused and overworked by their employers and it is
unlikely that the restrictions in the new Child Law will improve
their condition without much stricter enforcement on the part
of the Government.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
For government and public sector employees, the minimum wage is
approximately $25 (84 Egyptian pounds) a month for a 6-day, 42-hour
workweek. Base pay is supplemented by a complex system of fringe
benefits and bonuses that may double or triple a workers 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 it 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 if they refuse.
Source: U.S. State Department Report on Human Rights Practices