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Egyptian human rights group calls for amendment of assembly law

EOHR express its deep concern following the issuing of a law on demonstrations by the interim President of the Republic Adli Mansour. The law was passed despite the opposition to the bill and the call for various amendments and limits to the law, which were ignored.

EOHR believes the demonstration law will narrow the scope for the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully and reverse the gains of the 25th January Revolution, which erupted in order to promote and protect citizens' rights and freedoms.

The law has sparked a number of criticisms, because it gives security officials the right to ban any demonstration on the basis of a "vague" request; permits police officers to disperse any demonstration with lethal force and the use of cartridges, which can kill if they are fired over a short distance; and because the law does not specify any exceptions for small demonstrations which do not disrupt traffic or for spontaneous demonstrations.

In addition, Article 21 which outlines the penalties for organizing a demonstration without a permission, notes that the applicable fine will be no less than 10,000 pounds and will not exceed 30,000 pounds. The fine will be imposed on whoever was responsible for organizing the public meeting, procession, or demonstration without providing the proper notification in accordance with Article VIII of the law. This is an inflated penalty and contradicts the rule of proportionality between a crime and its punishment.

EOHR describes this law as contradictory for its restrictions on peaceful protests, which is a right guaranteed by international conventions and treaties. For example, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, issued in 1966, states that "the right to peaceful assembly is recognized, and there shouldn't be restrictions on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law which are necessary in a democratic society to maintain the national security, public safety, public order, protection of the public health, and protection of the rights and freedoms of others". Moreover, Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "Everyone has the right to participate freely in a peaceful assembly or association."

In this regard, EOHR calls for the amendment of the demonstration law and a proper consideration of and response to the amendments put forward by the National Council for Human Rights. These were put forth as a set of controls to ensure that the right to peacefully demonstrate is guaranteed, and to ensure that the law will comply with international charters and human rights conventions.

Hafez Abu Seada, President of EOHR, has emphasized that the current law contradicts the international obligations and agreements signed by Egypt and it also significantly contrasts the new Constitution, which stipulates that the right to demonstrate is guaranteed for all.

He also pointed out that the penal code would serve as adequate recourse were it to be applied in situations of non-peaceful demonstrations. The law as it stands is in contradiction to the achievements of both the revolutions of 25th January and 30 June 2013, which erupted primarily as a call for freedom. EOHR's president called for the issuance of a more liberal demonstration law to be debated in the upcoming parliament, one that is compatible with international conventions concerned with human rights.

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