Egypt interim president issues protest law

Ahram Online , Sunday 24 Nov 2013

The new law, which the government says will not limit the right to demonstrate, leaves some rights groups in dismay over the future of protests

Adly Mansour
Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour (Photo: AP)

Egyptian Interim President Adly Mansour approved on Sunday a controversial law regulating protests, two weeks after the cabinet submitted it for his review, state TV reported.

The controversial 'protest law' has drawn a chorus of condemnation from rights groups who slammed it as "repressive" and say it fails to protect freedom of assembly and promotes heavy-handed state intervention.

Rights campaigners said lawmakers have failed to bring about necessary proposed amendments to the bill's latest version.

"The draft law seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and gives the state free reign to forcibly disperse peaceful gatherings," read a joint statement released on Friday and endorsed by 19 Egyptian rights organisations.

The statement added that the law was unacceptably rammed through which it says "will have a long-term impact on freedoms and rights of individuals to express their opinions," noting that the bill regards "peaceful assembly as a crime in the offing."

The law requires protests to obtain permission from the police prior to assembly and reportedly allows security forces to conditionally use birdshots against protesters.

It also imposes hefty fines for gatherings without advance notification.

Supporters of the new law say the legislation is necessary to allow the police to ensure that demonstrations are peaceful in order to achieve a semblance of stability in the country.

Prime minister Hazem Beblawi told AFP on Sunday that the new law protects the rights of protesters.

"It is not a law that limits the right to demonstrate, but it aims at protecting the right of protesters," he said.

Beblawi also said the law does not stipulate that protesters need permission before staging demonstrations, but they must give advance "notice".

Street movements have been instrumental in shaping Egypt's political life, bringing down two regimes in the past two and a half years.

Massive street protests led to the toppling of long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and, two years later, prompted Egypt's military to oust Mohamed Morsi, the country's first freely elected president.

Supporters of ousted president Morsi have been demonstrating in the streets and on university campuses since his ouster on 3 July causing considerable disruption to traffic and day-to-day activities.

On Saturday, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim warned that police would act vigilantly against non-peaceful protests.

The government imposed emergency law and a nightly curfew for three months following the violent dispersal of two pro-Morsi camps on 14 August lifting it on 14 November.

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