The Egyptian Center For Housing Rights |
Egypt's Cabinet to Dispossess 155 Thousand People State Property
Public Benefit: State's Pretexts to Displace Citizens
On 25 April 2001 the Egyptian cabinet passed a decree No. 542/2001 that considered the land of the two islands of al-Warraq and al-Dahab as areas allocated to public utilization. Unlike the established custom of law enforcement that brings laws and decrees into force after one month of official publication, the decree No.543/2001 comes into effect once it is officially promulgated. The Ministry of Housing and Public Utilities justifies the confiscation of the two islands for 'public utilization' as a measure taken to preserve the civilizational image of Egypt. 'In view of their peculiar location and the Ministry's appreciation of their potential value once promoted, islands of Greater Cairo may constitute an important part of Egypt's civilizational image,' the Ministry claims. They argue that the two islands will be subject to a comprehensive development scheme, particularly as they rose in value, with the construction of the highway encircling Greater Cairo. The Ministry also claims that the decree aims to hinder the sprawling informal construction that began to emerge on the two islands. The decree's statutes, thus, was submitted to the Prime Minister to carry on with the dispossession of the two island's inhabitants and the assessment of compensations.
Nevertheless, the Ministry's justifications are groundless as evidenced by the conflict of official decisions and policies towards the two islands. In October 2000, the Governor of Giza sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister to construct new schools and infrastructure projects in the island of al-Warraq. The Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources also signed an official permission to supply inhabitants with basic services such as the construction of roads, schools, hospitals and lampposts. The conflict of decisions emerges from the fact that despite the Prime Minister's response to the needs of local inhabitants, he ratifies a decree to confiscate their property for 'public utilization'. On 25 May 2001, inhabitants of al-Warraq island took to the streets in a huge demonstration against the Cabinet's decree. Members of the local people's council with MP Fathi Emran joined demonstrators in solidarity. It is noteworthy that the number of inhabitants amounts to 155 thousands who live in the two islands for more than a hundred years and possess more than 97% of the total area of the islands.
The ECHR Comments on the Decree:
1. If the government really intended to preserve the civilizational image of the two islands and to hinder the spread of informal areas, they should have prepared a scheme for the development and promotion of inhabitants rather than to confiscate their property.
2. The ECHR wonders on the real meaning of 'public utilization' mentioned in the Cabinet's decree. The decree provides for the displacement and dispossession of 155 thousand people for the interest of a handful of businesspeople, who may construct tourist projects on the islands. In reality, this means a government piracy for the benefit of businesspeople and corrupt government officials.
3. The government uses the terms of 'public interest' and 'state-owned property' only to dispossess the poor. The ECHR wonders why the same terms have never been applied against upper classes, whose benefit the government considers as 'public' even at the expense of 155 thousand people.
4. The government's ambiguous term of civilizational image has come to mean the victimization of people only to maintain a false appearance to please officials and tourists. The aim of any development scheme throughout the world is to maintain, and promote, the people's standard of living and cultural level. Egypt's government, however, understands development as the preservation of the aesthetic appearance and civilizational image with the indiscriminate use of bulldozers, administrative decrees, state property and public interest to deprive the poor of their property and social security.
5. The government's decree also contravenes the Administrative Court's decisions, rendering people's interest above any government scheme for public utilization. However, the executive departments in Egypt often overlook court decisions.
6. The decree also contradicts Egypt's international obligations, enshrined in the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other international treaties ratified by the government, which provide for the right of citizens to adequate housing. Such agreements note that in case of a national project or scheme leading to the displacement of a large number of people, the government should amend that project in order to preserve the stability of inhabitants. The inhabitants of the two islands are insistent to resist the enforcement of the Cabinet's decree. Some members of the People's Assembly (parliament) intend to address the Assembly on this case. Also, some lawyers from local inhabitants formed a teamwork with ECHR lawyers to challenge the Cabinet's decree before the court. The ECHR supports the inhabitants' demand to abolish the decree and urges the government to prepare a scheme for the development and promotion of the two islands based on the real interest of local population.
3A Mohamed Hagag ST . from Mohamed Bassiuoni ST .(AbdEmonam Riad Square
Third Floor , Flat17
Tel : 5744428 / 5781003 Fax : 5744428
Email : email@example.com
تصميم : جمال عيد