The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) has called upon President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi Wednesday to reconsider approving the draft law detailing the offences necessary for a group or organisation to be labelled a “terrorist entity”.
The institute considered the draft law “a violation of the constitution, the Supreme Court’s authority, as well as a contradiction to the international treaties Egypt has signed”. The institution filed a report, citing different reasons for rejecting the law.
The draft law, which has now been handed to the presidency for consideration, would impose the terrorist label on any group “practicing or intending to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests, or risk its security, or harm national unity”, according to Article 1 of the draft law, published by state owned newspaper Al-Ahram.
The report raised doubts that the Egyptian government would use the law exclusively in support of the country’s efforts to counter armed militant groups. Although it acknowledges the significance of “the disastrous effect of terrorist attacks in Sinai and other cities”, the report also stated that the “government is using the war against terrorism to silence opposition calls”.
Hence, the institution is asking the government to “revise the law to be in alignment with the constitution”.
“The law uses vague and mysterious terminology to define terrorist groups”, which opens the door to oppress opposition members or activists who are calling for change in civil society organisations, the report said.
It added that the law subjects any group to being banned and dismantled, if “the group calls to change any laws or stage demonstrations to protest a governmental decree”. This, according to the report, might lead to a “terrorist” classification of non-profit organisations, human rights groups, political parties, syndicates, as well as politically or socially active movements.
The rights group also raised concerned that the proposed law does not require a court decision to ban a group, but relies simply on the prosecution’s order to ban its activities for three years.
The institution also criticised the articles of the law, which entail that groups can be declared terrorist organisations based simply on “accusation”, even if no physical crimes are committed by the group.
“The institution would like to remind the Egyptian government that labelling organisations such as Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis as a terrorist entity did not stop the group from killing 33 soldiers on 24 October in Sinai,” the report said.
The institute concluded by asking Al-Sisi not to pass the law, and to wait for the formation of the new parliament. Al-Sisi previously stated that the parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place before March 2015.
A new law governing the activities on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) was introduced earlier this year, raising major concerns among international and local organisations with regards to the power this law would grant over their activities and funding.
NGOs and civil society organisations were required to register by a certain date or “be held accountable according to the law”.
Further, following the October Sinai attack which left over 30 army personnel killed, Al-Sisi issued a decree that will refer those accused of crimes against the state’s “vital” facilities to military prosecution. The decree was criticised by human rights organisations, as attempting to increase military influence.