Protest law timing inappropriate before parliamentary elections: Egypt govt committee

Ahram Online , Tuesday 22 Oct 2013

Political parties and movements in Egypt demand government delay discussions about controversial draft protest law until legislative authority is elected

Demonstrators confront riot police.
Demonstrators confront riot police in Alexandria Egypt, Tuesday Jan. 25, 2011. (Photo: AP)

Political forces have demanded delaying discussions on a controversial draft protest law until parliamentary elections are held, said the official Facebook page of Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Bahaaeddin early on Tuesday.

A Monday meeting between representatives of civil society, political parties and human rights organisations with the government's Committee to Protect the Democratic Path settled on "the necessity to delay discussing and issuing both the counter-terrorism law and protest law until the new parliament is in place through free and fair elections according to the roadmap adopted on 3 July 2013," said the statement.

The meeting comes after Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi's announcement on Saturday that the draft protest law could be amended after a dialogue with political forces and parties. He also said there was no rush to issue the law before 14 November.

On Sunday the National Defense Council (NDC) led by Interim President Adly Mansour put the bill organising protests in Egypt to a week-long public debate.

The statement added that attendees – who included Bahaaeddin and committee coordinator, diplomat and writer Ezzedine Shokry – judged the timing to issue such laws affecting basic rights and freedoms in Egypt as inappropriate, particularly in the absence of an elected legislative authority.

Perceiving the protest law as part and parcel of a comprehensive system to achieve transitional justice in Egypt, the attendees mentioned that improvements to the police force and its training on how to handle protests and sit-ins should be simultaneously undertaken.

Among the political parties in the meeting were the Nour, the Strong Egypt, the Free Egyptians, the Constitution, the Egyptian Social Democratic, and the Egyptian Current. Public figures and representatives of the Tamarrod movement were also in attendance.

All meeting attendees viewed the draft protest law as a setback that "would constrain the right of peaceful protest -- one of the more substantial gains the revolution."

The draft protest law presented by the government to the presidency for revision last week had stirred controversy among political and revolutionary forces, who all categorically rejected it.

Prepared by the Ministry of Justice, the draft law is comprised of 21 articles, the most controversial of which are articles 6, 10 and 14.

Article 6 states that a written appeal should be handed to the local police station 24 hours before any scheduled protest. The appeal must include its location and purpose, the name of its organisers and how to reach them, as well as its demands and the proposed start and end time.

Article 10 gives the interior minister or senior police officials the authority to cancel, postpone or change the location of a protest, although protesters can seek emergency judicial intervention against such decisions.

During Morsi's year in power, neither the interior minister nor senior police officials were able to issue a direct order to cancel a protest. Such a demand had to be issued by the judiciary.

Article 14 states that governors have the power to designate "protest-free" areas of 50 to 100 metres around state and governmental premises, including presidential palaces, headquarters of legislative authorities and the cabinet.

The draft law stipulates a punishment of imprisonment and a fine of between LE100,000 and LE300,000 for those who pay or receive money for participation in protests, and who organise protests without prior disclosure at the local police station.

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