CAIRO: President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi ratified Sunday evening a new anti-terrorism law, which makes terrorism a capital offense, and which human rights advocates are calling “catastrophic.”
The new law
The law, which entered into force upon ratification, will task criminal courts to consider terrorism-related crimes that are punishable by five years in jail up to death sentences.
The new law stipulates that anyone who establishes, organizes, runs, preside a terrorist group or entity shall be given from sentences ranging from life imprisonment to death.
Those who belong to or participated in a terrorist group shall receive a harsh punishment not less than 10 years in jail, the law said. Terrorist groups shall be fined from 100,000 EGP to 3 million EGP ($12,7000 to $383,000.)
Moreover, anyone convicted of sabotaging electricity transmission towers or gas and oil pipelines may be sentenced between seven years in jail to life imprisonment; in case that his “terrorist” acts lead to the death of a person, the punishment would be toughened to the death penalty.
Those who incite violence directly or indirectly shall receive at least a sentence of five-year imprisonment. This punishment could be toughened to seven years in jail in case that the act of inciting violence occurred inside a religious worship place or among military and security personnel.
Under Article 24, any one who attacked a public transportation vehicle shall be sentenced at least to seven years in jail; however, it could be punishable up to a life sentence if the vehicle belongs to the police or military.
The punishment of hacking any governmental website is punishable minimum of 10 years in jail.
Those who abstained from calling or reporting the police about “almost terrorist acts” shall be sentenced three months in jail and be fined between 100,000 EGP and 300,000 EGP.
‘Law incites killing’
“The law brushes off all standards of freedoms; and all human rights activities see it the terrorism itself,” Ali Atef, lawyer at the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, told The Cairo Post Monday, adding that any opposition member could be charged with terrorism under this law.”
The law confers immunity for those who carry out the law; for example if a security member used force or killed an alleged terrorist on the ground of self-defense, he would not be held for accountable. Atef saw that this law “allows killing.”
Walid Farouk, Chairperson National Association for the Defense of Rights and Freedoms (NADRF), told The Cairo Post Monday that law was passed few months before electing a new parliament to “broaden the Ministry of Interior’s powers.”
“The law has unclear and broad phrases to serve the police body,” he noted. He added that the Egyptian Criminal Code has already articles by which terrorists are being tried so he questioned the timing of its issuance.
Article 3 stipulates that a terrorist is a person who used “violence, threats, and terror against people inside and outside the country to destabilize the public order. “ Farouk, however, said this law could be used against the police personnel as well “In case that a police officer tortured an inmate or a civilian, he could be designated a ‘terrorist’ under the Article 3 of the law.”
“Hence, I think this law will be unconstitutional zed,” he said, as it has flawed articles. He noted that the law also enables the country to pursue the Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters who fled the country.
“The law is muzzling mouths of media,” Atef said; according to Article 35, journalists who publish “incorrect” terrorism-related information that contradicts the Ministry of Defense’s official statements shall be fined between 200,000 EGP and 500,000 EGP.
Per the law, publishing or broadcasting information about trials of terrorism-related crimes shall be authorized by the presiding judge of the court; violators of this article shall be fined between 20,000 EGP and 200,000 EGP.
In July, Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate and other number of human rights organizations voiced their rejection to the law.
Court’s broadened powers
Per the law, the court can order residency in a certain place, ban possession of means of communication, order participation in rehabilitation programs, and order the deportation of foreigners.
Confiscated money for insurance
Per article 54, the state shall issue, obligatorily, life insurance documents for the security and military personnel charged to combat terrorism; the Prime Minister has the authority to allocate money confiscated by the court for repaying the value of insurance documents.