Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [NYT backgrounder] on Tuesday announced an amendment to a criminal law that would punish those who have contributed to the corruption of politics and damaged the interests of the nation. If convicted, repercussions would include a five-year bar from joining political life [Reuters report], removal from any positions of leadership and the loss of one's membership in parliament and local counsel. Protesters criticized the military's announcement for being "too little, too late" and expressed fear that criminal action would be too slow to prevent former members of Hosni Mubarak's party, the National Democratic Party (NDP), from running in and impeding the upcoming election. Egypt's deputy prime minister for political development Ali al-Selmi said that the law would apply to officials [JURIST report] who are found guilty of financial crimes and abuse of power including officials elected to parliament. However, there is still concern that without an official ban on former NDP members, who have used wealth and connections to secure parliamentary seats in the past to advance personal interests, they may once again regain power. Elections for the lower house of parliament are set to begin on November 28.
Proposals for this amendment to the Egyptian political corruption law were criticized by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] in October for their potential for abuse [JURIST report]. HRW reported that the amendments, proposed by the Egyptian Cabinet of Ministers [official website], would allow authorities to imprison anyone convicted of crimes involving "political corruption," which the organization alleges are vaguely defined, as well as deprive convicted persons of their rights to vote and run for office. As a result of this vague definition, HRW feared individuals will be convicted simply for association with certain political groups and not on the basis of actual criminal activity. While HRW recognized the interest the new government has in keeping corrupt former officials from affecting the direction the country's government takes into the future, it maintained that these amendments are too arbitrary to be effective in this way. Instead, HRW recommends that Egypt refrain from basing judgments on the ability to hold political authority on past or present associations and require clear and convincing evidence that the "individual in question knowingly and actively furthered criminal practices of the organization." The proposals at issue seek to amend the country's 1952 "Law on Political Treachery," which would be renamed "The Political Corruption Law."