Egypt rights groups voice misgiving about army's call for rallies
Egyptian rights organisations unsettled by army's call for a popular mandate to tackle terrorism, fear unlawful crackdown
Ahram Online, Friday 26 Jul 2013
Egyptian rights groups have expressed deep concerns over the army's call to Egyptians to take to the streets to grant a mandate to tackle terrorism, fearing that an unlawful crackdown is imminent.
On Wednesday, Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi called for nationwide rallies on Friday to support the military's efforts to tackle "violence and terrorism" that has surged following the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi early in July.
Al-Sisi's call followed an overnight bomb attack on a police station in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, north of Cairo, killing one person and injuring more than twenty others. The incident signified an escalation in methods of violence since the outbreak of unrest after the army's overthrow of the country's Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The authorities and anti-Morsi camp have accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of inciting violence and his loyalists of using weaponry.
In a joint Thursday statement, seven human rights organizations voiced alarm about current Egyptian laws which they say not only criminalize terrorism, but, in effect, criminalize what is regarded as freedom of expression.
"Flawed laws do not necessitate granting to the army or police a popular mandate to act against the law, but rather require the consolidation of the sovereignty of law through introducing necessary amendments by the president, his aides, lawmakers and rights campaigners," the statement read.
The statement urged re-examining laws regulating political parties and the way it has contributed to an upsurge of violence amid mounting political and religious polarization by stoking religious and factional xenophobia, seen in parties' statements and media outlets.
Among groups endorsing the statement are the Cairo Institute for Human Rights, the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
Rights organisations raised doubts about what they described as "selective absence" of police from scenes of violence, a strategy police have pursued since the 2011 uprising that ended the decades-long rule of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, the statement added.
"Such selective absence does not require a mandate outside the context of law, but rather obliges the police – in accordance with law – to perform their duty against violence and terrorism," the statement added.
Rights groups argued that rising militancy in the restive Sinai Peninsula is not an impulse for granting the army a mandate. They charged that the lack of legal measures in clamping down on militants in the desert peninsula under Mubarak's rule along with marginalization and persecution of its residents has made the province a hotbed of militancy.