Egypt Adopts Broad New Restrictions On Protests

Share:
Egyptian riot police block a street after violent clashes between Muslims and Copts in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. Attackers threw objects at a Coptic Christian march in Cairo, injuring 10 people, witnesses said.

Egyptian riot police block a street after violent clashes between Muslims and Copts in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. Attackers threw objects at a Coptic Christian march in Cairo, injuring 10 people, witnesses said. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

November 25, 2013

Egypt’s military-backed interim government has passed a law that human rights groups warn would virtually criminalize the kind of free assembly that forced presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi from power.

The final text of the bill — which was ratified Sunday by interim President Adly Mansour —  has yet to be published in the state registry, but according to early drafts of the legislation, it would:

  • Require citizens to provide three days notice for any public gatherings of more than 10 people, and for applications to include the location of assembly, march route, demands of the protest, any chants people plan to use and the names and contact information of the organizers.
  • Allow authorities to block marches that may “pose a serious threat to security or peace” or that seek to “influence the course of justice”
  • Forbid political marches at mosques, churches or other places of worship
  • Ban overnight sit-ins as well as the wearing of masks during demonstrations
  • Demand 24 hours notice before any election campaign event.
  • Grant police the authority to end any peaceful protest if a single participant breaks the law or engages in violence.

Under the law, violators would face a range of potential penalties, such as a one-year jail term for covering the face during a protest or demonstrating outside of a place of worship. Violent actions at a rally can lead to a seven-year imprisonment, and fines can run as high as $4,360.

It also spells out how police can shut down a public gathering, starting with verbal warnings, followed by more extreme tactics, including water cannons, tear gas, clubs and rubber-coated bullets.

The law comes amid a broad crackdown on the Islamist supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, whose July ouster was the focus of FRONTLINE’s Egypt In Crisis. In September, for example, the military-backed government banned Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood from carrying out political activities and placed a freeze on the group’s funds. The government has also arrested a number of senior brotherhood leaders.

Human rights groups have been quick to criticize the new law, calling the legislation a throwback to the authoritarian policies in place during the Mubarek regime.

“The draft law seeks to criminalize all forms of peaceful assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and gives the state free hand to disperse peaceful gatherings by use of force,” according to a statement signed by Egyptian 19 human rights and released before the final law was passed.

In a television interview, Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi defended the government’s stance by saying “The starting point for this law is that the right to protest is a human right and must be given full care and attention. … It is just that practicing this right must be met with a sense of responsibility so it won’t damage security or terrorize or assault establishments.”


Jason M. Breslow

Jason M. Breslow, Former Digital Editor

Twitter:

@jbrezlow

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

New Data on Utah Police Shootings and Race Called ‘Extremely Uncomfortable’, ‘Disappointing’
Racial and ethnic minorities account for a third of the people shot at by Utah police over the past decade — despite these groups making up just a quarter of the population.
September 20, 2021
Most Minneapolis Voters Believe Crime Is on the Rise, New Poll Finds
An overwhelming majority of likely Minneapolis voters say crime is on the rise, a view strongly held by residents of every race, gender and age group across the city, according to a new Minnesota poll, our Local Journalism Initiative partner the Star Tribune reports.
September 18, 2021
Minnesota Poll: Most Minneapolis Voters Want Reform, Not Fewer Cops
A clear majority of Minneapolis voters oppose reducing the size of the city’s police force — a feeling that’s especially strong among Black voters, according to a new poll. At the same time, voters are showing support for replacing the police department with a new agency, our Local Journalism Initiative partner the Star Tribune finds.
September 18, 2021
Get the Backstory on Duterte’s ‘War on Drugs’ as ICC Green Lights Investigation into Philippines Killings
With the International Criminal Court authorizing an official investigation into Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs," these two documentaries and one podcast episode offer context.
September 17, 2021