Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] on Saturday upheld a law that effectively bans protests. The law requires individuals seeking to protest to inform the interior ministry, at least three days prior, of any public gathering with more than 10 people, allows security forces to break up unapproved protests with water cannons, tear gas, and birdshot, and imposes up to five years of jail time for violation of various protest restrictions. The lawsuit had contended the law violated Article 73 of the Constitution, which provides for the “right to organize public meetings, marches, demonstrations and all forms of peaceful protest while not carrying weapons of any type, upon providing notifications as regulated by law.” Despite upholding the law [Reuters report] generally, the court did find unconstitutional a provision that allows the interior ministry to deny protest requests. The law was passed in 2013 during mass protests calling for Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi to be reinstated. In regards to the court’s holding, human rights lawyer Gamal Eid said he was surprised and also stated “[t]here isn’t a court in Egypt that has mercy on the people.”
Egypt has been internationally scrutinized in recent months over allegations of human rights infringements and free speech violations. In October an Egyptian court froze assets [JURIST report] of five notable human rights activists and three NGOs for allegedly accepting foreign funds without governmental authorization. In July Amnesty International criticized [JURIST report] the Egyptian government for abducting and torturing hundreds of citizens during a crackdown on political activists and protesters. And in May the UN urged [JURIST report] the Egyptian government end its oppressive response towards human rights advocates in the country. The experts reported that Egypt has cracked down on protesters, journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in recent years by conducting mass arrests, using aggressive force and invading people’s privacy.