An Egyptian human rights group has said the country does not need more laws restricting rights and freedoms, with a number of political forces echoing similar sentiments.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) said the draft protest law was reminiscent of “the security grip imposed under [Hosni] Mubarak and [former interior minister] Habib El-Adly that failed to prevent a popular revolution against them.”
The controversial protest law is being reviewed by interim President Adly Mansour after it was approved by the cabinet. Among its most controversial measures is the right given to the interior minister or senior police officials to cancel, postpone or change the location of a protest.
The law also entitles governors to designate “protest-free” areas near state buildings, including presidential palaces.
Gamal Eid, executive director of ANHRI, said it was unfortunate that “the same authoritarian approach continues when dealing with rights and freedoms in Egypt.”
“Resorting to security and police solutions will lead to more failure and worsen the political conflict in Egypt,” Eid added.
He accused the authorities of trying to gain public approval for the law by claiming it would only be used against “a certain group,” referring to Mohamed Morsi supporters, who have been protesting since the Islamist president was ousted in July.
The most controversial articles of the law are articles 6, 10 and 14.
Article 6 states that a written appeal should be handed to the local police station 24 hours before any scheduled protest. The appeal must include its location and purpose, the name of its organisers and how to reach them, as well as its demands and the proposed start and end time.
Article 10 gives the interior minister or senior police officials the authority to cancel, postpone or change the location of a protest, although protesters can seek emergency judicial intervention against such decisions.
During Morsi’s year in power, neither the interior minister nor senior police officials were able to issue a direct order to cancel a protest. Such a demand had to be issued by the judiciary.
Article 14 states that governors have the power to designate “protest-free” areas of 50 to 100 metres around state and governmental premises, including presidential palaces, headquarters of legislative authorities and the cabinet.
The draft law also stipulates a punishment of imprisonment and a fine of between LE100,000 and LE300,000 for those who pay or receive money for participation in protests, and who organise protests without prior disclosure at the local police station. see more