CAIRO: Draft amendments to counter-terrorism articles in Egypt’s penal code would give authorities increased powers to curtail freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics if adopted, Amnesty International said in Friday statement.
“These deeply flawed draft laws can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.
Amnesty International said the draft amendments must be revised, as they violate rights of free expression and restrict “safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention and expands the scope of application of the death penalty.”The amendments were first drafted in early October, amid a series of assaults on security forces and assassination attempts of senior policemen, including the Minister of Interior. In November, the amendments draft law was prepared by the Ministry of Interior and submitted to the Ministry of Justice for revision.
On Nov. 7, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights issued a report signed by over 20 human rights organization condemning the draft law, warning that it would “re-establish the foundations of a police state and intensify violence and terrorism.”
The government announced April 3 the submission of amendments to its existing counter-terrorism laws to the president for ratification, one day after three explosions took place outside Cairo University, leaving one dead and nine injured.
The majority of punishments described in the amendments include prison sentences from 7-15 years and the death sentence when the crime results in death, the Head of the National Association to Defend Rights and Freedoms (NADRF) Waleed Farouq told The Cairo Post Sunday.
Article 86 stated that anyone who founds, runs, or leads a terroristic group could be sentenced to life in prison or sentenced to death.
The “definition of terrorism has been expanded to include actions aimed at damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions,” the Amnesty statement read.
The law allows authorities to “bring a terrorism case” against any peaceful protester, Sahraoui added.
“The government should change course and adopt an approach that respects human rights and the rule of law,” the statement said.