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ECESR Challenges the Government’s Mass Enlistment of Railway Workers

The Government Sweeps Away the Rule of Law and Declares War on the Workers

ECESR Challenges the Government’s Mass Enlistment of Railway Workers

Yesterday morning, on 10 April 2013, lawyers from the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed appeal No.40149 of the 67th judicial year, on behalf of a number of striking railway drivers, against each of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense and Military Production, the Chairman of the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, and the Director General of the General Administration for Mobilization Needs to cancel the decision of Prime Minister and appeal the decision of the Director General of the General Administration for Mobilization Needs to enlist the the plaintiffs in the Egyptian Armed Forces on behalf of the Department of Transport, which is an exceptional measure that is only taken in a state of war or cases of extreme emergency.

For the past several months, railway workers have been holding strikes and rallies protesting their poor financial situation and the corruption eating away at the railway system. The demanded the restructuring and development of the Egyptian National Railways (ENR) authorities to avoid the recurrent accidents and catastrophes witnessed on the rail network, to protect the lives of Egyptians.

However, these demands were deliberately ignored, the catastrophes kept occurring, and the Egyptian government kept gambling with the lives of Egyptians. When the situation in the authority was not getting better, the actions escalated into a general strike on 7 April, paralyzing the railway network in its eastern and seaboard sections.

The workers gave officials 48 hours to fulfill their demands. But the government was not ready to deal with the strikes and the activists protesting the bad conditions of a the rail network, which kills Egyptians on a daily basis. Its only answer was the security solution. It rejects direct negotiations with the strikers and calls the police to break up their protests. Then, it immediately begins to tarnish the image of the workers, claiming that their demands were sectarian. But when two trains collide or one gets derailed, they are quick to accuse the workers of a crime they did not commit. The true criminals are the authorities who ignored the constant demands.

The state surpassed itself in the latest strike by declaring a general mobilization and issuing an assignment order (No.1 for 2013) according to Law 87 of 1960 and Law 12 of 1999 on general mobilization. It meant that striking workers were enlisted into the armed forces to work in a military capacity in the transportation authority.

The workers were asked to present themselves on 9 April 2013 at 12 noon in the enlistment center for Railway Regiment 39. The decision also threatened them with 6 months in prison and a LE5,000 if they did not show up. A Special Forces unit had forced workers a day earlier to break their strike and run the train.

Such an order, involving the enlistment of government employees to work at the war ministry, cannot be issued except during the state of general mobilization that can only be declared by the President of the Republic in the following situations, strained international relations, the threat of war, outbreak of war, or disasters and crises that threaten national security. Furthermore, procedures related to general mobilization cannot happen except through the concerned minister or the National Defence Council. Since these two conditions were not met, the decision must be cancelled and those who issued it must be jailed and fined according to the law.

The Egyptian state stands on the fence between abiding by the rule of law or forsaking the law and using brute force, between commitment to international human rights charters and the rights of the workers movement and the poor, on one hand, or continuing to violate them, on the other.

With these procedures, the state is violating the rights of its workers to organize, protest, and strike. The decision under appeal even goes as far as imposing forced labor on striking workers, in violation of all norms and legal frameworks in this area. Therefore, ECESR warns of the consequences of such a tendency and announces its full solidarity with the striking rail workers and their demands.