Egypt new parliament should amend protest, anti-terror laws; says Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch urged Egypt’s newly elected House of Representatives to “amend or revoke” what it described as “abusive laws” issued by either President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi or his predecessor Adly Mansour.

In a report released Tuesday, the international watchdog expressed its concern about controversial laws including the protest law, military courts law, counter-terrorism law and pre-trial detention law.

The new parliament’s first session convened on Sunday. Egypt spent three years without a legislature since an Islamist-dominated parliament was dissolved in 2012.

Prior the election of the parliament, the president held legislative powers. The new parliament is expected to discuss and approve all the legislations passed by the president within 15 days of its commencement, according to article 156 of the 2014 Egyptian constitution.

The constitution states that “if they (legislations) are presented but not ratified thereby, their force of law shall retroactively be revoked without need for issuing a decision to that effect.”

One of the laws issued during the absence of a parliament is the protest law. Issued in November 2013 during the transitional months under then-Interim President Mansour, the law has been the subject of critical scrutiny by local and international rights organisations

The 25-article legislation outlines regulations and conditions for peaceful protest. According to critics, the law practically bans protests.

The military court law has been in place since October 2014, following a militant attack in Egypt’s North Sinai on a security checkpoint killing at least 30 security personnel. The decree refers those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” facilities to military prosecution.

The facilities included in the decree are “stations, power networks and towers, gas and oil fields, rail lines, road networks, bridges”.

Citing reports by media and local groups, Human Rights Watch said that “nearly 4,000 civilians have been charged or sentenced in military courts since al-Sisi issued the decree.”

Another law included in the report is the anti-terrorism law which was passed by Sisi last August. The law caused much controversy as one of its articles imposes heavy fines between 200,000 and 500,000 Egyptian pounds (around $25,550 and $63,874) for anyone who intentionally publishes “untrue statements” on terrorist incidents inside the country or counter-terrorism operations, “in violation of official statements by the Ministry of Defence.”

The international watchdog also referred to the September 2013 amendment of pre-trial detention law, saying it now” dramatically” extends “the length of time people can be held in custody either before trial, during the appeals process, or while awaiting retrial.”

Source: Aswat Masriya

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