May 23, 2013
Egyptian Cabinet backs bill on protests, critics cry foul
CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist-led government approved a draft law on demonstrations yesterday that backers say meets international democratic standards but critics believe will give the state too much power to stifle protest.
The bill will be sent to the Shura council, the Islamist-dominated Upper House of Parliament, which currently has sole legislative power during Egypt’s transition to democracy.
“This law has been drafted to restore peace to protests, which are considered to be among the strongest rights granted to the nation,” Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky said, according to the state news agency MENA.
Heba Morayef, Egypt director of Human Rights Watch, countered: “This law seems designed to actually increase restrictions, whereas the existing legal framework, which dates back to the early 20th century, was bad enough.”
Close to 60 people died in violent protests against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi between January 25, the second anniversary of the start of Egypt’s popular uprising, and February 4.
Protests on everything from political rights to economic grievances have become a routine feature of public life in the last two years, prior to which they were severely repressed.
Under the draft law, peaceful protest would be a right that must be protected and this would require formal notification of demonstrations at least three days in advance. Police may also order the route of a protest march to be changed.
An Egyptian opposition group accused the government yesterday of covering up torture at the hands of security forces.
The charge came after a government forensic report claimed 28-year-old activist Mohammed el-Gindy was killed in a car accident. It contradicted family and friends, who said he died after he was electrocuted and beaten on his head repeatedly in detention earlier this month.
In a separate case, activists also accused authorities of trying to conceal the identity and age of 12-year-old Omar Salah, killed by security forces’ gunfire during clashes around Cairo’s Tahrir Square on February 3.
El-Gindy was a member of the Popular Current opposition group, which called the forensic report “fraudulent” and said it will challenge it.
The two deaths came during a heavy-handed crackdown by security forces on protesters that had the opposition charging police had returned to the repressive tactics used under the ousted regime of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Security officials had no comments about Salah’s case. Attempts to reach the spokesman for the Interior Ministry were unsuccessful.
Herald with AP, Reuters