CHRLA has filed a summary lawsuit before the administrative court on behalf of Ms. Marwa Hussein 'Abd al-Sattar, a student in her second year at the faculty of literature at Cairo university. The lawsuit concerns the stay of execution and repeal of the decree of the faculty's disciplinary council, issued on May 24, 1997, which deprived the student of the right to sit the first two examinations in the finals of the second term, due to commence on May 31, 1997.
During student protests against Israeli settlement policies, which took place last March, the student, along with a number of other female students, was stopped and searched by campus security guards upon entering campus. On April 10, 1997, Marwa was astonished to learn that she had been referred to the legal department of the faculty of literature for interrogation regarding a charge of possessing a microphone and political tracts on campus. She denied the accusation against her, explaining that the bag in which the seized articles were alleged to have been found had been lost for a long time.
Later on, and despite the legal department informing the student that the matter had been resolved, she was notified, unexpectedly, that she was to stand before a disciplinary council on May 19. On her way to present herself before this council, she was informed that its session has been postponed to May 24. During its session, the Council confronted her with a record indicating that she had been caught in the act of attempting to smuggle a microphone onto campus. Despite the student's insistence on denying the incident, the disciplinary council decided to deprive her of the right to sit the examinations for two of her courses, in so doing jeopardizing her academic future, especially seeing as she is considered to be one of the top ten students at the faculty. The execution of this decision shall prevent her from maintaining her academic excellence.
CHRLA considers the measures taken against the student Marwa Hussein to be arbitrary and to constitute a blatant abuse of authority on behalf of the faculty's administration. In this respect we would like to draw attention to the following considerations:
Postponing the session of the disciplinary council to a date only one week prior to the commencement of examinations points to malicious intent to prejudice the student and deprive her of the chance to challenge this decision, which threatens her academic future. Accordingly, by issuing this decision the faculty has imposed severe restrictions on her right to litigate and to challenge administrative decisions.
Presuming that the accusation attributed to the student is proved - despite her denial - the charge is no more than the mere possession of a microphone, without using it for any purpose. Thus, this decision is characterized by an absence of any sense of proportion between the criminal act and the punishment inflicted. The decision also breaches students' rights to express their opinions using all peaceful means at their disposal.
This case raises anew the necessity of opposing legal restrictions to student activity in general, and freedom of expression on campus in particular, which were imposed either by the Student Work Regulations in 1979, and their amendments in 1984 which prohibit conducting any student activity without prior permission of the faculty's administration, or by the executive regulations of the Law on University Regulation, which all but prohibited outright the various forms of freedom of opinion and expression, and imposed a strict system of disciplinary sanctions starting from a warning of expulsion, to prevention of sitting examinations, to the denial of postgraduate studies and final expulsion. Such measures are provided to punish the exercise of students' rights, such as their right to peaceful gathering through sit-ins, or demonstrations, and their right to express their opinions through organizing seminars, holding lectures, gathering signatures, or posting bulletins without prior permission from the administration.
CHRLA, by adopting this case, appeals to the authorities, again, to abolish all legal restrictions which conflict with students' rights to express their opinions, in conformity with the commitment of the Egyptian government to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
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