Saturday, November 9, 2013

Egypt's human rights organisations warn that new counter-terrorism law will reinstate police state

Twenty Egyptian human rights organisations published a joint statement on Thursday that claims that the counter-terrorism law, drafted by the interior ministry in September, would "serve as the legal basis for the re-establishment of the police state", like the one that controlled the country before the January 2011 popular uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Among the signatories of Thursday's statement were the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), The Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights information.
According to the statement, the current bill broadens the definition of ''terrorist acts'' in a dangerous way. It is going to include activities like "disrupting the authorities from carrying out some of their activities," "acts which seek to hinder the implementation of the constitution or the law" and "preventing educational institutions from carrying out their work." An "act of terrorism," as defined by the proposed bill, also extends to "any behavior which damages the communications or information systems, the financial systems, or the national economy," the statement adds.
Such broad provisions could open the way to harassment of "peaceful political opposition members, human rights activists, and a broad range of groups working to defend democracy and human rights," the human rights organisations stated.
''The provisions of the current bill could also be easily employed to curb freedom of opinion and expression and media freedoms. The death penalty, which the international community seeks to abolish or, at the very least, to limit the crimes in national legislation for which it can be imposed, also appears in seven additional articles of the current bill. The provisions of the current bill are in blatant violation of the principle of equality before the law and of standards for guarantees of a fair trial, as they deprive the accused of a number of legal and procedural protections which are guaranteed to other defendants under the law, they added.
 "Continuing the same practices of the Mubarak regime, such as setting aside the principle of rule of law and resorting instead to repressive security measures and exceptional laws which undermine human rights and the foundations of the rule of law, will only serve to increase the occurrence of acts of armed violence and terrorism," the statement read.

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