Ongoing Strikes And Sit-Ins Throughout Egypt

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The ITUC on Monday expressed deep concern over statements attributed to the new Minister of Manpower in Egypt, Ismail Fahmy, that ‘the issue of trade union rights is kept on hold until such a time that the labour code is revised . . . and that the ministry will continue to work closely with ETUF and its President Hussein Megawer’.

Fahmy is the former treasurer of ETUF (Egyptian Trade Union Federation), the national centre controlled by the Mubarak regime.

The ITUC warned: ‘Such statements indicate a clear risk that trade union rights will continue to be denied in Egypt, against a background of ongoing strikes and sit-ins in workplaces throughout the country.

‘In this delicate transition period where Egyptian workers are continuing to fight for democracy, social justice and trade union rights, the ITUC reaffirms its support for the new independent trade union federation.

‘The new federation brings together existing independent trade unions in the health sector and tax collection, as well as representatives of the workforce from the country’s principal manufacturing sites, civil servants and workers from other sectors.’

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said: ‘Millions of Egyptians are continuing to demonstrate their absolute determination to secure genuine and fundamental change.

‘The building of free and independent trade unionism in Egypt, as in the whole region, is essential to the construction of a better future.

‘Trade union freedoms and social dialogue are cornerstones of democracy and development.’

Burrow added: ‘It’s time for Egypt to fully comply with international standards on trade union rights and freedoms.

‘The trade union law in Egypt was a legal obstacle, prohibiting the creation of an independent and democratic trade union movement, and it is time to change that.

‘Egyptian workers have suffered for too long, and an independent trade union movement is vital to ending that suffering.’

Egypt on Monday slapped a ban on ousted president Husni Mubarak and his family travelling abroad, and also imposed a freeze on their assets, judicial officials said.

Besides Mubarak, the decision also applied for his wife Suzanne, his two sons Ala and Gamal, and their wives.

Mubarak stepped down after three decades of iron-fisted rule, handing control over to the army and heading to the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

On February 21, Egypt prosecutor general Abdel Magid Mahmud requested a freeze on the foreign assets of the former president and his family.

The prosecutor charged Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit with contacting foreign countries to seek the assets freeze.

At the time, a judicial official said that the prosecutor’s office had received several complaints regarding Mubarak’s wealth being outside the country, ‘which necessitates an investigation.’

The state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported that the Mubarak family had ‘secret accounts in Egyptian banks,’ including deposits of $147m for his wife Suzanne and $100m each for his sons.

The announcement of the travel ban and assets freeze came a day after judicial officials said former interior minister Habib al-Adly would go on trial for money laundering from March 5th.

France said on Wednesday last week that it would back the Egyptian request.

‘We are also working with our European partners to respond best to the request from the Egyptian authorities,’ said French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.

Switzerland, which froze Mubarak’s assets within hours of his resignation, previously said the former president had ‘tens of millions of francs’ in Swiss financial institutions.

Mubarak, 82, has not been seen publicly since he stepped down, amid speculation about his health.

Adly, who was arrested on February 17 along with tourism minister Zoheir Garranah and steel tycoon Ahmed Ezz, would become the first of the toppled president’s regime to face justice.

Last Friday, a group of labour leaders met to establish the ‘Coalition of the January 25 Revolution Workers’ and to reassert the revolutionary principles of change, freedom and social justice.

In a statement, the coalition affirmed workers’ absolute right to restore their rights, to strike and peacefully protest, and to fight corruption in their management teams and labour unions.

The statement said the workers’ protests over the past years paved the way for the January 25 revolution and could guarantee its victory.

It urged the formation of a civil presidential panel to lead during the interim period, and the replacement of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq’s government with a new cabinet comprising national figures known for their independence and competence.

The statement also called for the abolition of Emergency Law, the immediate release of all political prisoners, the abolition of the State Security body and the trial of all officials guilty of repression and torture.

It said corrupt officials should be brought to justice and the country’s wealth restored to bolster social justice and implement the workers’ demands.

The statement called for the implementation of judicial rulings, most importantly those concerning the minimum wage, the dissolution of existing labour unions and the restoration of dismissed workers.

The statement also said international agreements governing the social, economic rights and liberties of workers should be respected.

The coalition includes Khaled Ali, head of the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights, Saber Barakat, and other key labour leaders.

Nine legal professionals announced the formation of a ‘popular fact finding committee’ on Sunday to investigate alleged violations committed by Egyptian security bodies over the course of Egypt’s January 25 uprising.

The committee includes law professor Hossam Eissa, human rights activist Fatma Khafaga and head of Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution, Khaled al-Shalakany.

Eissa said that the most urgent incidents that the committee planned to investigate were the use of live ammunition against protesters and attacks on demonstrators in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 2nd.

That day men on horseback and camels, armed thugs and unidentified snipers assaulted protesters assembled in the square, which resulted in several deaths and injuries.

The committee will also investigate a police withdrawal in late January which created a security vacuum; orders to use violence against protesters; orders to release convicted criminals from police holding cells; the kidnapping and detention of protesters and journalists; the shooting of prisoners; the emotional and physical abuse of detainees; the mistreatment of journalists and the destruction of their equipment; and the incitement of violence against foreigners and protesters by state media.

The committee believes that the 18-day uprising’s death toll exceeds the 365 figure announced by the minister of health. It is now compiling information gleaned from human rights organisations and victims’ families to arrive at a more accurate figure.

The committee is also asking members of the public to come forward with documents and testimonials about security violations.

An official fact-finding committee, formed after the events of February 2nd, delivered its own report to the general prosecutor last week.

The report cites evidence that live ammunition was used against protesters.

But Eissa says that his independent committee was drawn up because its members were not satisfied with the work done by the formal committee.

He says that the formal committee failed to reach out to potential witnesses to obtain accurate information and limited its investigations to the events of February 2nd, ignoring other violations that transpired during the uprising.

The popular committee is now collecting signatures to legitimise its findings, which it plans to eventually turn over to the public prosecutor and other investigative authorities.

‘In order to make the authorities take our findings into account, we need popular pressure,’ said al-Shalakany.

‘The more support we get, the more weight our findings will have and the more we’ll be able to take serious steps to prosecute the people responsible.’

The committee, he added, would issue its preliminary findings within two weeks.