Egypt hits back at western criticism of its new counter-terrorism law

Ahram Online , Wednesday 19 Aug 2015

Spokesman says law is appropriate and matches western laws

File Photo: Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (Photo: Al-Ahram)

Egypt has sharply responded to western criticism of its newly-ratified counter-terrorism law, saying that foreign critics have misunderstood the law, and calling for Egypt's right to self-determination to be respected.

"Foreign criticism and remarks on the law stem from a lack of accurate analysis of its provisions as well as the failure to see its objective," foreign ministry spokesman Ahmed Abou Zeid said in a statement on Wednesday.

The law, signed off by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Sunday, has been denounced by local and international 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.

Washington voiced concerns about the legislation on Tuesday, saying it "could have a significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms."

London-based Amnesty International called the law "draconian" and New York-based Human Rights Watch said the law constitutes "a big step toward enshrining a permanent state of emergency."

The spokesman reiterated the importance of respecting the "independence of decision[s]" taken by Egyptian authorities.

The ministry issued a memo, in both Arabic and English, defending some of the provisions that have stirred controversy, while reaffirming that Egypt is "committed to its human rights obligations under the Egyptian constitution and international human rights treaties and conventions."

The ministry said the law's definition of terrorism - which has been denounced for being extremely broad - has been developed to "match the evolving nature of terrorist crimes."

The special court circuits that will be set up to speed along the prosecution of terror-related offences will not affect the fairness of the trials or the right of those accused to appeal, it added in the memo.

It also defended an article allowing the law's enforcers, such as the police, to use force to defend themselves or perform their duties.

The law "does not sanction the use of force randomly or arbitrarily," but rather limit this to "necessary and proportionate" force, the ministry added.

The ministry said the law was drawn up with reference to the US Patriot Act and the British Terrorism Act, highlighting that it could still be reviewed by the country's parliament - expected to be elected later this year.

Egyptian authorities say the law will boost their ability to 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 prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, in a car bombing - the highest ranking state official to be killed in years.

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