UN rights office criticizes Egypt draft demonstration law

[JURIST] Spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], Rupert Colville, on Tuesday criticized [press release] Egypt's draft law on demonstrations for failure to adequately protect freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and two international rights treaties ratified by Egypt. The draft law requires that organizers inform authorities [AFP report] about protest plans in advance and allows the interior ministry the right to reject demonstrations. Governors will restrict protests to a particular location in each province. Additionally, the draft prohibits using platforms for speakers or the use of tents during sit-ins and bars carrying banners or chanting slogans found to be defamatory or insulting to religious or state institutions. The draft law imposes criminal sanctions on organizers who fail to comply with these legal requirements. The Egyptian government argues that the intent of the legislation is to prevent peaceful and violent protests from mixing. In recommending that the draft law be revised to conform with international treaties, Colville commented that: "No one should be criminalized or subjected to any threats or acts of violence, harassment or persecution for addressing human rights issues through peaceful protests."

Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence since the beginning of the revolution. The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] announced Monday that it had rejected parts of the draft election law [JURIST report] that will govern the country's upcoming parliamentary elections. Earlier this month the Supreme Constitutional Court postponed ruling [JURIST report] on whether the legislative constitutional assembly that recently drafted a new charter was legitimate. The judges claimed a crowd of Islamists outside the courthouse of had intimidated the judges and blocked the entrance to the courthouse. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] in late January voiced concern [JURIST report] over the growing violence and rising death toll in Egypt stemming from ongoing protests throughout the country. Earlier in January Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi declared a state of emergency in an attempt to quell growing unrest and violent political protests in cities a day after nationwide unrest compounded following an Egyptian court ruling handing down 21 death sentences [JURIST reports] for a 2012 soccer riot that resulted in 74 deaths and thousands of injuries.

 

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