ARAB REPUBLIC OF EGYPT: Egypt’s draft protest law paves the way for fresh bloodshed

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29 Oct 2013
[International Secretariat]

Egypt's draft protest law paves the way for new bloodshed, Amnesty International warned today. If signed by interim President Adly Mansour, the law would both arbitrarily restrict the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and give the security forces a free rein to use excessive and lethal force--including against supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

Under the draft, the security forces have the power to disperse unauthorized peaceful protests with water cannons, tear gas and batons. The draft law also allows the security forces to use lethal force to defend "financial interests" without providing any definition, a move likely to allow abusive interpretations.

Since 3 July, over 1,300 people have died in protests and political violence. Of these, 483 people died in Cairo on 14 August when security forces forcibly dispersed pro-Morsi protesters in Rabaa al-Adawiya and al-Nahda in Cairo--including nine members of the security forces.

Amnesty International has also documented many cases where the security forces failed to police protests effectively, leaving Mohamed Morsi's supporters and opponents to wage bloody street battles.

Under international law, Egypt must uphold the right to freedom of assembly. International law and standards state that security forces must not use lethal force, except when there are no other alternatives to protect life or prevent serious injury.

Egyptian law already allows for the security forces to use live fire to disperse protests that threaten "public security", or to protect lives, financial interests or infrastructure.

However, under the draft law protest organizers face a range of new bureaucratic hurdles. The authorities would also gain sweeping powers to arbitrarily deny permission for any planned protests on vaguely defined grounds such as "security or public order", "hampering citizens' interests" or "delaying traffic".

In practice, the authorities are likely to use the law to ban any protests in support of Mohamed Morsi or the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The UN expert on freedom of assembly has recommended that States assume protesters intend to hold peaceful assemblies as best practice. The Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association has also stated that fundamental freedoms should not be subject to previous authorization by the authorities but, at the most, to a prior notification procedure.

The draft law tightly restricts freedom of assembly, banning sit-ins lasting more than a day, and any protests in places of worship. Mohamed Morsi’s supporters have often gathered around places of worship since he was ousted in July.

Under Mohamed Morsi's rule, the authorities discussed a draft law on demonstrations that imposed bureaucratic restrictions on protest organizers, and gave Governors the power to postpone demonstrations, or impose blanket prohibitions on public gatherings.

President Adly Mansour should not sign any protest law that does not fully meet international law and standards, Amnesty International has said.

The organization has urged the interim President to scrap the draft legislation or send it back to the drawing board.

The draft law has been waiting for President Adly Mansour's signature since 10 October, when it was sent to him by the Office of the Prime Minister after being approved by the Cabinet.

18 October 2013
Amnesty International Public Statement

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