Egypt’s anti protest law: Legalising authoritarianism

Egypt’s anti protest law: Legalising authoritarianism

Since the summer of 2013, following the military coup led by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the ruling regime in Egypt has managed to handcuff the public space, surround it with restrictions.

This has been in a stark contrast to the period before the coup when Egyptians, during the popular uprising that took place on January, 25, 2011, were encouraged to engage actively in managing the country’s affairs through peaceful means and ballot boxes. This period benefited  both civil society organisations and political parties.

Egypt now finds itself ruled by a military, security and intelligence junta

Egypt’s generals have constantly employed repressive tools to instill fear among the population in order to stifle free expression and peaceful opposition.

The military clique’s goal here is to evacuate citizens from the public space, to eliminate the autonomy of civil society organisations and to marginalise political parties that are not controlled by the security and intelligence services. 

They have also continued to adapt different legislative and legal measures to crack down on opposition and isolate voices of dissent

In this context, one specific law issued on November 24, 2013 by the interim President Adly Mansor is worth special attention. Making use of his temporary legislative competence, Mansor issued a law “organising the right to public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstrations”

This dreaded law, known locally as the “protest law”, should be scrutinised because it provides the basic justification to usurp the freedom of a large number of Egyptian youths, students, workers, Muslim Brotherhood members as well as others.

It has also created a citizen diaspora, turning Egyptians into a chased community pushed outside of the public space and pursued by criminal state institutions that havetirelessly violated human rights and civil liberties.

The anti-protest law recognises in its eighth article the citizens’ right to “organise a meeting, or conduct a procession or protest”, but requires a notification written three days at minimum and 15 days at maximum in advance. This written notification should be directed to the police station located within the area of the activity in question.

Yet in its10th article it effectively eliminates the citizens’ rights of peaceful assembly and demonstration.

Article 10 gives the security services absolute power to cancel or postpone the demonstration, change the location, and modify the activity path based on “serious information or evidence” regarding the existence of threats against security and peace which the security services themselves provide.

This formulation is of a clear despotic nature as it makes the security services both the opponent and the judge, as well as unbinding their hands to abuses without any supervision, control or objective evaluation framework.

The security services’ authority is only partially checked by allowing citizens to contest prevention and delaying decisions in front of the Urgent Matters Courts, which rarely rule against the security services.

In its 14th article, the law unleashes the authority of the security services, represented by the Minister of Interior, to coordinate with the governors, as local representatives of the president, to identify “secure spaces” before public institutions of all types – military, civilian, administrative and service – into which citizens are not allowed to go

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