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ANHRI calls on university administrators to respect students' freedom of expression

(ANHRI/IFEX) - Cairo, 10 November 2011 - ANHRI calls on the administration of the German University in Cairo to respect the will of the students to democratically select the student affairs statute, which governs student affairs. ANHRI also condemns the university administration's role in impeding the students' right to peaceful demonstration and freedom of opinion and expression. By appealing to the students' parents, threatening to apply disciplinary measures set forth in the Universities ACT No. 49 for the year 1972, and suspending the academic term, the administration has effectively stifled the students' freedom of expression.

The committee responsible for the preparation of the statute in the Student Union had appealed to the administration several months ago proposing a new student affairs statute to be presented to the student body in a public referendum. However, in a meeting between the former head of the Student Union, the Vice President of the University for Student Affairs and student representatives, the administration rejected the proposed statute, citing the need for approval by the university's Board of Trustees. By law, however, this board should not interfere in the affairs of the university administration.

As a result of this decision, a number of students' clubs decided to prepare a response. They decided to invite their fellow students to demonstrate on 14 November, and started to promote the event. The university responded by threatening them with punitive sanctions as set forth in the Penal Code. It also issued a decision suspending classes for a week and preventing student access to the university from Saturday 12 November to Friday 18 November in order to impede planned demonstrations by the students.

"It is clear that the decision to suspend classes for a week, as issued by the administration of the university, deliberately coincided with the students' call for demonstrations on 14 November. It is mainly aimed at denying the students their right to demonstrate, and pressuring their parents to prevent them from peacefully protesting. The university administration should have responded to the demands of the students and protected their right to choose their statute in a democratic manner, rather than stifling discussion by cancelling classes," said ANHRI.

In condemnation of any attempt to limit freedom of opinion and expression, especially for students, ANHRI urges the GUC not to deny the students their rights to participation and expression. Universities are among the most important institutions entrusted with maintaining these rights, and must ensure that they are upheld.

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