The non-government organisations "are not ready to work with the National Human Rights Council as long as the conditions exist that rob it of credibility," they said in a statement on Tuesday. 

They would only cooperate if the government lifted emergency laws that have been in place since 1981, allowed political parties, professional associations and unions to form freely, and granted press freedom. 

"We do not want to deal with this centre that was set up as a matter of appearance and will not contribute to improving the human rights situation in Egypt," Nijad al-Burai, chairman of  the Group for Democratic Development told Aljazeera.net

"It was created only as a make up to beautify the ugly face of the Egyptian government when it comes to human rights," added al-Burai whose non-governmental organisation was among the signatories pledging not to work with the council.

Other signatories include the Hisham Mubarak Legal Centre, the Egyptian Association Against Torture, the Earth Centre for Human Rights, and the Centre for Human Rights Legal Aid. 

Emergency state

In line with a law proposed by President Husni Mubarak and
adopted by parliament last year, the government set up the National Human Rights Council on 19 January headed by Butrus Butrus-Ghali, a former UN secretary general. 

But human rights activists have attacked the move as a facade in the face of the government's continuing arrests of both Islamists and liberals, crackdowns on protests against the US-led war in Iraq and its renewal last year of the state of emergency. 

The emergency laws have been in place since the October 1981 assassination of president Anwar al-Sadat by an Islamist opposition group.