Amnesty International described on Wednesday Egypt’s draft counterterrorism law as the “latest tool to muzzle peaceful activists,” in another negative comment from the rights group on civil freedoms in Egypt.
“A draconian counterterrorism law expanding the Egyptian authorities’ iron grip on power would strike at the very heart of basic freedoms and human rights principles and must be scrapped immediately or fundamentally revised," said Amnesty International, the London-based group that has repeatedly voiced concerns over freedoms in Egypt over recent years.
Following a hectic week marked by the assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, and Islamic State affiliated-Sinai Province offensive raids on security sites in July, the Egyptian government has issued a new draft for a counterterrorism law. It has been widely circulated by the local press, while President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi has vowed to achieve "rapid justice against terrorism."
Several civil society representatives, human rights advocates and the Journalists Syndicate have rejected the 55-article draft law issued by the cabinet last Wednesday. They have all claimed that some of its articles contradict the 2014 Constitution, while others see the law as a tool of state repression.
Meanwhile, Ibrahim El-Heneidy, minister of parliamentary affairs and transitional justice, defended the government's right to issue the law, saying it comes as a new and harsher measure aimed at stemming the tide of terrorist organisations.
Amnesty International commented: “The draft law, which is being discussed by the cabinet today, represents a flagrant attack on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. It also weakens safeguards to ensure fair trials and widens the use of the death penalty. If approved the law could be signed off by the president and ratified within days,”
Said Boumedouha, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International, said: “The proposed counterterrorism law vastly expands the Egyptian authorities’ powers and threatens the most fundamental rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. If approved, it is set to become yet another tool for the authorities to crush all forms of dissent.”
“The Egyptian cabinet must drop the repressive draft law or fundamentally revise it to bring it in line with the Egyptian Constitution and international human rights law and standards.”
“The draconian new measures would effectively place a gag order on journalists attempting to independently report facts as they perceive them. It is a plain effort by the authorities to blackmail and intimidate journalists who challenge the official narrative.”