[JURIST] Proposals for amendments to an Egyptian political corruption law were criticized by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] Wednesday for their potential for abuse [press release]. HRW reports 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 fears individuals will be convicted simply for association with certain political groups and not on the basis of actual criminal activity. While HRW recognizes the interest the new government has in keeping corrupt former officials from affecting the direction the country’s government takes into the future, it maintains 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.”
The country’s upcoming election has resulted in a variety of legislative and court activity. Earlier this month, an Egyptian court overturned a ban [JURIST report] that prohibited presidential hopeful Ayman Nour [BBC profile] from forming a political party and also prohibited the formation of the Islamic-based political party Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya [party website]. The decision will allow political parties [Reuters report] previously banned because of their religious foundations to participate in the upcoming November parliamentary elections. The court found that Al-Gama’a al-Islamiya’s party, “Construction and Development,” should be allowed to participate in the elections because its founders consist of Muslims and non-Muslims and the party does not mandate the religion of its members. While the decision marks progress in Egypt’s journey towards democratic rule, certain election prohibitions continue to restrict its progress. The Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces [NYT backgrounder] recently amended election rules to ban the use of religious slogans in campaigning [JURIST report]. The Supreme Council stated that “[e]lectoral campaigns based on the use of religious slogans or on racial or gender segregation are banned,” adding that violators could be fined and face up to three months in jail.