25 February 2013

Egypt: Demonstration Draft Law Invites Abuse - Rights Group

Human Rights Watch (HRW) sent on Monday a letter to Egypt' president and the Justice Ministry concerning the government-proposed draft law on demonstrations, outlining concerns with the draft law in light of Egypt's international human rights obligations.

The Egyptian cabinet has approved the final draft of law and submitted to the Shura Council.

The letter urged the government to make amendments and listed recommendations for revisions.

The HRW said that the new bill restricts right to assembly and invites abuse.

"This law as drafted would severely restrict one of the key human rights that determine Egyptians' ability to continue to call for bread, freedom, and social justice," said Sarah Leah Whitson, the Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of HRW.

She added, "Governments have a right to regulate demonstrations, but not to ban them for spurious reasons or to keep them out of sight and sound of every government building."

The HRW letter offered a legal analysis of what the organization found problematic in the provisions of the draft law.

It reminded Egypt that it is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly whereas Article two of the draft law seems to limit this right.

According to the HRW, Article four of the draft bill allows the police to forcibly disperse any protest.

The HRW also commented on Article 16 which suggests that the police may use force, saying, "This provision is inconsistent with international standards since it could be interpreted to allow the use of lethal force such as live gunfire without the very narrow limitation provided under international law."

Whereas according to the United Nations Basic Principals, intentional lethal use of firearms may only occur where "strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

Whitson concluded her letter saying, "The vicious cycle of violence Egypt has seen recently can only be addressed through police reform and accountability, not by giving the police and other state authorities more leeway to restrict demonstrations or use force against protesters."

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