Egypt's new anti-terrorism bill would impact basic freedoms: Washington

Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Aug 2015

John Kerry
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks to a meeting with Philippines’s Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Thursday Aug. 6, 2015 (Photo: AP)

The United States has criticised Egypt's newly passed anti-terror law, voicing concerns about the legislation's possible impact on human rights and basic freedoms.

The bill, signed off by president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi late Sunday, has been denounced by rights campaigners and pro-democracy advocates who say it is designed to stifle dissent and broaden the powers of its enforcers, including the military and police.

"We are concerned that some measures in Egypt’s new anti-terrorism law could have a significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms, including due process safeguards, freedom of association, and freedom of expression," State Department spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday in a press briefing.

Egyptian authorities say the law will help them stem an increasingly brazen Islamist insurgency that has mainly targeted police and troops with deadly attacks over the past two years.

The government sought to pass the law after El-Sisi pledged a tougher legal system in July, following the assassination of the country's top public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, in a car bombing, the highest ranking state official to be killed in years.

The spokesman reaffirmed that despite its dissatisfaction with the law, Washington "stand[s] with Egypt in its fight against terrorism."

Kirby reiterated remarks made by Secretary of State John Kerry during strategic talks in Cairo earlier in August that called for creating a sense of balance between combating terrorism and preserving citizens' right to disagree with authorities.

"Defeating terrorism requires a long-term, comprehensive strategy that builds trust between the authorities and the public, including by enabling those who disagree with the government's policies to express those views peacefully and through participation in the political process," Kirby quoted Kerry as saying.

Ties between Cairo and Washington, long-time close allies, soured following the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi. Tensions have now eased with the US resuming last March its $1.3 million annual military aid to Cairo that was partly suspended in the aftermath of the ouster. The aid is intended to boost Cairo's ability to combat threat by extremists.

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