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Egypt protest law falls short of freedom of assembly obligation: HRW

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] condemned a draft Egyptian protest law on Wednesday, saying it falls short of the obligation to respect freedom of assembly. HRW expressed concern [press release] over the scope of the law's application, vague language, and its broad restrictions and discretionary powers. Specifically, the law would apply to any "public meeting" of more than 10 people, while also giving police discretion to preemptively ban any gathering, based on "serious information," in which conduct "impedes the interests of citizens" or "influences the course of justice." Furthermore, the new law would require organizers to notify the local police station in writing seven days ahead of the planned public gathering. The Egyptian cabinet approved the draft in early October, sending it to interim President Adly Mansour. Under the July 8 Constitutional Declaration, the interim president is given full legislative powers.

Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence since the beginning of the revolution. The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] announced in February that it had rejected parts of the draft election law [JURIST report] that will govern the country's parliamentary elections. Earlier that 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 recently disposed 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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