CAIRO: When Minister of Interior Habib Al Adly announced that demonstrations needed to have a permit from the ministry before they would be allowed on the street, it was regarded as an official decree from the ministry. However, with the recent case against Al Adly’s Ministry of Interior, brought on by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR), activists and human rights groups are beginning to question the order.
The EOHR has filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior, saying that the May 10 directive violates previous laws that stipulate that peaceful demonstrations may occur. On Tuesday, the state prosecutor asked for a week’s delay of the case in order to find out if Al Adly’s directive is an official, binding statement, or simply the directions the minister gave to demonstrations as a warning against demonstrating. The case is due back in court this coming Tuesday.
“We have, since the original statement by the minister, changed our direction, says Tariq Zaghloul, head of field work at EOHR. “We are asking that, while banning of demonstrations is illegal, that all that groups need to do in order to demonstrate is notifying the Ministry of Interior of when and how they are to conduct their demonstration.
While it appears to be a straightforward case by the EOHR, it is in fact a multifaceted case that has shown the confusion of government statements.
“He [state prosecutor] had to postpone the case on Tuesday, because he must notify his superiors in order to discover whether it was an official statement made by Al Adly, or just the minister giving directions and warnings to demonstrators, continues Zaghloul.
At the outset of the lawsuit, EOHR first had decided to go against the entire decree, which supposedly banned peaceful demonstrations in the country’s streets. However, over time, the organization has modified its stance, arguing that they are asking the government to accept that if groups want to demonstrate, all those organizations must do is notify the government in a timely manner beforehand in order to allay the fears of security officials.
“The judges told us that we must make a modification of our lawsuit, says Zaghloul. “They told us that we must have a specific argument against the government and give an alternative, so we changed our stance to that of notification . this way everyone wins and there won’t be as much confusion and violence as there has been.
If law 10/1914 is analyzed, there can be no banning of demonstrations in the streets, as long as they remain peaceful. Therefore, EOHR decided to tackle the issue head on and filed their lawsuit in early May, almost immediately following the statement made by Al Adly.
According to EOHR, the government must decide whether the statement made by Al Adly is in fact official and binding, or if it was just the minister arguing and is not policy of the ministry of interior.
“That is the problem with the case . nobody knows if the minister’s statement was indeed an official decision taken on by the Ministry of Interior, explains Zaghloul. “Right now, everyone involved in the case – the prosecution, the ministry and human rights groups – are studying what the minister has said and if he has the right to say things like this . and if they are binding for the people.
While EOHR waits to hear back from the government, they are due back in court on Tuesday. According to the human rights organization, the prosecution is expected to issue a statement stating whether it was a real decision or simply a statement in the heat of the moment to reporters.
Either way, the case has brought the attention of the human rights group dedicated to the betterment of Egyptian society.
“We hope that we win the case, of course, adds Zaghloul. “However, either way the turnout is, we know that it will have helped us and other groups in this country understand what is law and what is not . no longer can we just listen to the words of the minister and take them at face value.