Egypt cabinet formulates amendment of unconstitutional article 10 in protest law

El-Sayed Gamal El-Din , Wednesday 7 Dec 2016

The proposed amended article was sent by the cabinet to the state council for legal review before it is referred to parliament

File Photo of Protests against the Red Sea islands deal in Cairo's Dokki district on April 25, 2016. (Photo: AFP)

Egypt's cabinet referred on Tuesday an amendment of the protest law's Article 10, which permits the country’s interior minister to unilaterally bar scheduled protests, to the state council for legal review after the High Constitutional Court deemed it unconstitutional.

In a press conference on Tuesday, justice minister Mohamed Hossam Abdel-Rahim said that the amendment states that the interior minister should apply for a judicial order to bar a protest or change its location if the demonstration "threatens national security."

The minister added that the judge would be required to issue a decision as soon as the request is filed, and that the protest organisers can appeal if the judge grants the ministry’s request.

Article 10 gave the interior minister or any concerned security director the right to ban protests without a judicial order. 

The High Constitutional Court, Egypt's highest court, said on Saturday that Article 10's provisions granting the interior ministry the authority to deny citizens the right to protest is unconstitutional, saying that authorities have no right to prohibit protests once all relevant documents have been submitted.

The court said those looking to organise street protests are merely obliged to notify authorities beforehand and present all needed documents as required by law, and are not required to obtain prior approval.

However, the court rejected challenges against articles 7, 8 and 19 of the protest law.

Article 7 defines what constitutes obstruction of traffic and threats to "citizens’ interests" in relation to protests, while Article 8 outlines police notification procedures. Article 19 stipulates that violators of the law are to receive a minimum two years in prison and a fine of EGP 50,000.

The protest law, issued in late 2013, has led to the imprisonment of thousands of youth activists, as well as secular and Islamist protesters.

It has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups.

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