Peaceful protests now involve numerous risks, regardless of whether protesters belong to the Islamists groups or others, according to Cairo Institute for Human Rights (CIHRS) director Bahey Eldin Hassan.
In a special session at the European Parliament in Brussels on Monday, Hassan said these risks include the “random killing of protesters”, whose perpetrators are usually not held accountable.
Hassan added that arrested, “protesters are [typically] sentenced to prison terms, varying from three to 15 years”, according to a statement by CIHRS. He named renowned activists Alaa Abdel Fattah and Ahmed Maher as examples. Abdel Fattah is currently on trial for violating the controversial Protest Law, and Maher is serving a three year sentence for breaching the law.
Hassan added: “Rights organisations that defend the rights of murdered protesters and prisoners are punished through defamation campaigns, media distortion, the pursuit of their staff and threats of closure and confiscation.”
Hassan called on the government to revise the Protest Law to make it more consistent with the constitution and international standards.
He warned that if the upcoming parliamentary elections are held under the same ongoing political and security conditions and within the current legal and judicial context, they will “neither be free nor fair” because some candidates and their supporters may face the same fate.
In November, 2013, then interim president Adly Mansour issued the law, and has since been the centre of heavy criticism from international and domestic rights organisations. Most organisations described it as repressive, stating that it infringes on rights for freedom of assembly and expression as dictated by the constitution.
Last month, Egypt faced a United Nations Universal Periodic Review where delegations from several countries, including the US, UK, Germany, and Sweden called for the amendment of the law.
The Protest Law requires organisers of any public assembly – whether it is a protest, march, or general meeting – submit a written notice to the nearest police station with their plans at least three working days in advance. It also gives police officials the authority to cancel, postpone or change the route of a protest should either acquire “serious information or evidence that the assembly would threaten national peace and security”.
The Supreme Constitutional Court scheduled a hearing on 14 December to rule on the constitutionality of the law.