“The Draft Law is incredibly dangerous and seriously threatens freedom of expression in Egypt. After the hope of a revolution that inspired the world and a transition in which so much work is still invested, Egypt must now uphold its new constitutional protections for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly rights,” said Agnes Callamard, Executive Director of ARTICLE 19.
“It was the exercise of these rights, by brave men and women demanding social justice and freedoms they had been denied for decades, that brought about the Egyptian revolution. The promise of that revolution must not be betrayed by allowing draconian restrictions on protest to be introduced now,” she added.
ARTICLE 19's analysis of the Draft Law on protest highlights a range of fundamental shortcomings:
- A failure to establish the obligation of the state to protect and promote the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly;
- Broad and unchecked powers for law enforcement to use severe and even lethal force to disperse assemblies, even where demonstrators are acting peacefully;
- Sweeping powers for the government to turn vast swathes of Egypt into no-protest zones, ban protests at night entirely, and allow for the confiscation of tents, stages and radio equipment;
- New offences to restrict collective criticism targeting the government and critical discussion of religion;
- Broad and undefined offences of criminal defamation and insult;
- A 5-day notification period for assemblies, with a burdensome notifications procedure and significant discretion upon authorities to ban or move planned assemblies;
- A failure to guarantee spontaneous demonstrations or counter-demonstrations.
- Severe restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly rights of NGOs that receive foreign funds. ARTICLE 19's concerns regarding the Draft Law are joined by concerns about a second draft law under consideration that threatens to considerably restrict the functioning of civil society organisations.
“The draft law restricting civil society is also deeply troubling, and threatens to add to an environment where there is decreasing space for NGOs to operate independently or freely. It is alarming enough that Mubarak-era practices to stifle free speech continue, but that the current legislature are seeking to add to this arsenal of measures to crack-down on dissent is deeply disturbing” Callamard concluded.
ARTICLE 19 urges the Shura Council to amend both draft laws in line with international standards.