Egypt's PM says govt rounds off disputed protest law

Ahram Online , Tuesday 5 Nov 2013

PM El-Beblawi says the draft bill regulating protests has been subject to review by legal and human rights bodies

Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi gestures during a news conference in Abu Dhabi October 27, 2013. (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi said on Monday a controversial law regulating protests was referred to Egypt's State Council - one of the nation's top judicial authorities, to ensure its abidance by international standards.

The draft law has sparked a chorus of condemnation from rights groups and political forces, who have said it could severely restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and allow security forces to tighten their grip on dissent.

El-Beblawy told reporters on Tuesday that the government was putting the final touches to the law, which he said would be passed shortly.

The proposed bill requires protest organisers to notify police in advance of any public assembly of more than ten people for political reasons in a public place. It also gives the Interior Minister the authority to cancel, postpone or change the route of protests, and allows authorities to designate "protest-free" areas around state buildings.

According to the draft law, violators might face fines of up to LE300,000 (US$ 43,000).

The senior minister asserted that most recommendations proposed by Egypt's National Council for Human Rights regarding the bill have been carried out.

“This draft law could effectively allow the police to ban all planned protests and use force to disperse ongoing demonstrations,” said Sarah Leah Whiston, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch last week.

“The final law will be an important indicator of the extent to which the interim government is going to allow for political space in Egypt”, she added.

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