Egypt’s new draft terrorism legislation is “deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised”, said Amnesty International in a Friday press statement.
The rights group, which expressed its opposition to two draft anti-terror laws that were recently sent to interim President Adly Mansour, said the new legislation would “give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics”.
Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui warned that the potential laws could be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism,” adding that the legislation “violates the right to free expression, undermines safeguards against torture and arbitrary detention, and expands the scope of application of the death penalty”.
“The Egyptian government has a duty to prevent, investigate and punish violent attacks, but in doing so it must abide by its obligations under international law,” she said.
Earlier this month, the cabinet amended articles of the Penal Code and Criminal Procedures Law, putting in place harsher punishments for crimes relating to terrorism. The council of ministers amended Article 86 of the code to state that joining a “terrorist organisation” is a crime punishable by a maximum of 10 years in prison, as well as for those who “promote” terrorism through speech, text, flyers or recordings.
The cabinet added to Penal Code Article 63. The draft article exempts the official executing an arrest from accountability should he use force “in carrying out his duty, in protecting himself, others, or their property from imminent danger,” if his use of force is “necessary and proportionate to the danger faced”.
Article 133 was amended in a manner which maximises the punishment for insulting (through signs or speech) or threatening any public official. Such crime is now punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, instead of six months in prison, or an EGP 10,000 fine, instead of an EGP 200 fine.
According to Amnesty International, other proposed changes include allowing security forces to hold detainees for 72 hours “in breach of international law and Egypt’s recently adopted constitution, which states anyone arrested should be referred to a prosecutor within 24 hours”.
The human rights watchdog also stated that another proposed change would endow the authorities with power to check bank accounts and monitor phone calls of people without approval of an independent authority.