Egypt parliamentary committee approves amendment to protest law

Ahram Online , Tuesday 17 Jan 2017

The Egyptian parliament’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee approved on Tuesday a bill to amend the protest law in accordance with a Higher Constitutional Court verdict stating that the interior ministry must petition the courts before attempting to block legal street protests.

The committee, headed by MP Bahaaeddin Abu Shoqa, approved the cabinet-proposed amendment to the protest law's Article 10 following the 3 December court ruling.

The new draft law – which is yet to be presented to the House for a vote – stipulates that “the interior minister and the concerned security director has the right to present a request to a court to cancel a protest or transfer it to another area” if it presents a security threat.

The organisers of the protest have the right be know the judge's reasoning for approving the ban, and will have the right to file an appeal against the decision.

The December court ruling said that if authorities see the need to prevent a protest from taking place, they are to raise the issue with the judiciary, which will then decide if there are “interests, rights and freedoms” that should be put before the right to protest.

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

Last week, a planned protest – set to take place in front of the cabinet building in Cairo – against the now-void Egyptian-Saudi maritime border demarcation deal moved to Fustat Park after interior minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar asked a court to move the protest.

Since it was passed in late 2013, the controversial protest law has led to the detention of thousands of youth activists as well as secular and Islamist protesters. 

The law has been widely criticised by local and international rights groups.

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