Rights groups demand Cabinet halt draft protest law

 

Human rights groups issued a joint statement on Friday to pressure the government into stepping away from a proposed bill that would govern the right to protest.

Published by several media outlets, the statement responds to a controversial draft law that would limit the right to protest and subject violators to jail time and steep fines.

The law has caused divisions even within the Cabinet. Some privately owned news sources leaked heated discussions between Vice Prime Minister Ziad Bahaa Eddin, who expressed reservations about the draft, and Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim.

According to the state-run Al-Ahram, the proposed law has been amended several times and was recently been submitted to the State Council for review. The bill would be subjected to another review by the Interior and Justice Ministries before interim President Adly Mansour makes the final decision to approve or veto the law.

Human rights organizations slammed the amendments, saying that “the oppressive nature” of the law has not changed despite several recommendations they had previously presented to the Cabinet.

The organizations criticized the bill’s stipulation that organizers of demonstrations would be obliged to give the authorities three days’ notice before their protest would take place, and that the Ministry of Interior holds the right to deny permission based on broad suspicions of threats to national security. Permits for electoral gatherings are also subject to the discretion of the Ministry of Interior.

An article banning the use of force outside the scope of the law was taken out of the final draft, and human rights groups said the proposed punishment of fines of up to LE30,000 for violators was also unacceptable.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Cairo Center for Human Rights Studies and other groups expressed concerns that the law could be used as an alternative to the recently expired Emergency Law, which was in effect for three months following the state’s harsh dispersal of two major Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo on August 14.  

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