Parliament increases punishment for possession of explosives with terrorist motives to death penalty

Egypt’s Parliament amended the Penal Code to increase the penalty for owning, manufacturing or importing explosive devices or materials for use in terrorist acts to the death penalty, by a two-third majority vote on Tuesday.

The amendments also include a clause pertaining to knowledge of explosive devices without reporting such information to the authorities.

Parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee approved the amendments in an emergency meeting, headed by Bahaa Eddin Abu Shaqqa, and submitted them to a plenary session, during which they were endorsed.

The committee approved the government’s request to amend the law to stipulate that, “Any individual who obtains, possesses, imports or manufactures explosives, explosive materials, or the like, without a license to do so, shall face the death penalty if the crime occurs for the implementation of terrorist motives.”

The amendments also include the addition of a paragraph stating that, “Any individual who acquires, possesses, imports or manufactures devices, machines or tools used in the manufacture or detonation of explosives, explosive materials, or the like, without a warrant shall face life imprisonment. The Interior Ministry has been tasked with determining what these explosives or explosive materials entail.

Additionally, “Any individual who is aware of any of the crimes referred to in the first and second paragraphs of the article, and who does not notify the authorities prior to their discovery, shall face imprisonment, in addition to the punishment stipulated in the first and second paragraphs of this article, along with the seizure of the site of the crime and the means of transportation used.”

In his presentation of the committee’s report during Parliament’s plenary session, Abu Shaqqa explained that the amendments have been made because the state “is steadily moving to amend legislation to keep up with the current negative circumstances, the most grave of which is a wave of crimes committed at the expense of Egyptian society, primarily terrorist acts.”

Therefore, he continued, “It has become necessary to increase the penalty in a way that is commensurate with the magnitude of the crime committed, to implement some kind of punitive deterrence, whether through the death penalty or the seizure of assets and transfer of their ownership to the state.”

Such a move is in line with “the need for concerted efforts by state institutions to support every honorable effort made by the Armed Forces and the police in order to achieve stability and security and preserve the capabilities of the Egyptian state in light of Operation Sinai 2018,” the chairperson of the committee stressed, adding that the amendments are in line with the Constitution and the need for stronger penalties in the current moment.

Following a spate of executions in recent months, local and international civil rights groups have focused on Egypt’s use of the death penalty, highlighting the irreversible nature of the punishment and the potential for its political misuse in speedy trials, particularly by military courts.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) recorded 260 death verdicts handed out in 2017, 32 of which were reportedly upheld by the Court of Cassation. Egypt was ranked sixth on a list of countries with the highest number of executions in 2016 by Amnesty International in its April 2017 report.