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Human Rights Watch is interfering in Egypt's affairs: Shura Council

Human Rights Committee chairman says that the Human Rights' Watch report against Egypt's new protest law is an interference in Egyptian affairs

Ahram Online , Saturday 30 Mar 2013
tahrir clashes
Archive photo of clashes on Tahrir Square in November 2011 (Photo: AP)

Human Rights Committee Secretary Ezzeddin El-Komy of the Shura Council condemned on Friday a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on Egypt's proposed Law on the Protection of the Right to Peacefully Demonstrate in Public Places.

The HRW report published last month argues the law would, "severely limit the right to peaceful public assembly and is open to abuse by police."

The law was "passed in principle" on Tuesday by the Islamist-dominated Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament, which currently has legislative powers until the election of the House of Representatives.

The law requires protest organisers to give official notification to authorities stating the time, route and demands of any demonstration three days in advance. It also gives security forces the power to disperse any protest that does not comply with any of the conditions previously agreed upon, like the time, place and estimated number of participants.

El-Komy considers HRW's statements an "interference in Egyptian affairs" and he emphasised that the law is still "being discussed in the appropriate Shura Council committees and has [also sparked] wide public discussion."

HRW criticised some "vague" articles in the law, such as "article four [that prohibits] demonstrations that interfere with 'citizens' interests' or that halt traffic or interfere with the right to work... any violation of article 4 would allow the police to forcibly disperse the protest."

The New-York based organisation also commented on article nine saying that it, "would effectively bar demonstrators from coming within 200 metres of any national government, legislative or judicial building, as well as local government buildings. That restriction would place demonstrators out of sound and sight of virtually every official in the country."

The Shura Council's Human Rights Committee had released a report that reads that "approving the law was [meant] to stop thugs from infiltrating protesters and from protests becoming violent."  

It also states that the law obligates the police to use "internationally-approved means, like water-hoses, tear-gas and batons" and "helps maintain citizens' safety, interests and prevents roads from being blocked."

Several NGO's also criticised the law, including the Independent Association for Legal Support in Egypt, saying that it contravenes with international standards on the rights of peaceful assembly.

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