Interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Sunday signed into law a bill circumscribing citizens' right to protest in public. The law requires demonstrators to obtain permission [Reuters report] from authorities one week in advance of gathering in public, grants the interior ministry the right to reject requests and imposes severe fines for violations. Several advocacy groups have criticized the law as an impediment to the right to freely assemble. In October Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] expressed concern [JURIST report] over the scope of the law's broad restrictions and discretionary powers. HRW specifically criticized that the law would apply to any "public meeting" of more than 10 people, while 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." In February spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website], Rupert Colville, criticized [JURIST report] the law, arguing it fails to adequately protect freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text] and two international rights treaties ratified by Egypt. Reports indicate that the public immediately protested the bill's signing.
Egypt has been plagued by continuing protests and violence since the beginning of the revolution. The Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court 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 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.