Egypt's protest law to be amended: NCHR member

Passant Darwish , Monday 8 Sep 2014

Member of National Council for Human Rights says that the council has been asked to contribute to changes to controversial protest law

Some of Egypt's political parties and the Egyptian Human Rights Council declare solidarity with detained hunger strikers on Monday 8 September (Photo: Passant Darwish)

Egypt's controversial protest law is poised to undergo an "amendment phase," the National Council for Human Rights' Nasser Amin said on Monday, adding that the council has been asked to review the amended law before it is issued.

The protest law, issued last November, restricts protests by mandating a minimum of three days notice to the interior ministry before holding demonstrations. Violators of the law face hefty prison sentences and fines.

Amin, in a joint press conference held in the Journalists Syndicate by a number of political parties and the NCHR, said the council's official position was that of opposing the law even before it was issued.

He added that the procedures of the law make the request to the interior ministry more a matter of seeking permission rather than filing a notice, as stated in the law.

"A number of entities, who oppose the freedom to protest, participated in drafting the protest law," Amin said, adding that the law was made by combining six other laws.

He said the council will suggest the removal of some points in the law, including the procedures of the interior ministry in dispersing protests that turn violent as well as stated charges for the possession of weapons during protests – points that Amin says already exist in criminal law and thus shouldn't be in the protest law.

Amin said the council will suggest that the law be comprised of only three points:

First, protesting is a right. Second, in case a notice for a protest is rejected, the interior ministry should appeal the decision in front of the administrative court and not the protest's organisers, as currently stated in the law. Finally, those who violate the law should pay fines and not face prison sentences.

The press conference was held in solidarity with political detainees who are mostly charged with violating the protest law and who have declared a hunger strike to protest their conditions.

A number of public figures, political activists and families of the detainees announced on Sunday that they'd launched a hunger strike in solidarity with the detainees as part of a campaign called "We've Had Enough".

Meanwhile, a member of the Egyptian Popular Current, Masoum Mahfouz, said during the press conference that the number of hunger strikers has reached 91 persons, both inside and outside of detention.

Also speaking at the conference was Yassin, a high school student who has been on a hunger strike for nine days to protest his arrest during Shura Council protests and being slammed with a 15-years prison sentence in absentia.

Yassin along with five others is currently holding a sit-in at the NCHR's headquarters in central Cairo.

Yassin, speaking for himself and the five other hunger strikers, called for revoking the protest law and all subsequent verdicts issued under it as well as the release of all political detainees.

Laila Soueif, mother of detained Sanaa Seif and imprisoned prominent activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, spoke at the conference, saying that they're in "an urgent battle to save the peaceful youth opposition from the clutches of this repressive state."

However, Soueif said that this battle is "a part of a bigger battle to create a civilian state that has bread, freedom and social justice, the demands of the 25 January revolution."

Soueif, along with her daughter Mona Seif, declared their hunger strike last Thursday. Abdel-Fattah is also on a hunger strike.

Notable hunger strikers inside prison and detention include Mohamed Sultan, on hunger strike for 225 days, activist Ahmed Douma, and Alexandrian political activist Mahinour El-Masry.

Al Jazeera journalist Abdallah El-Shamy, arrested in August 2013, was released in late May after more than 100 days on a hunger strike.

The political parties declaring solidarity with the political detainees and the hunger strike campaign are the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Constitution Party, the Justice Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Karama Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Egypt Freedom Party and the Bread and Freedom Party, which is still under construction.

Head of the Constitution Party Hala Shukralla said that "we are in an unjust reality, and this reality has to change."


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