AFP
Last updated: 24 November, 2013

Egypt rights groups slam “repressive” protest bill

Egypt’s interim president Adly Mansour approved a controversial law Sunday regulating demonstrations which rights groups have slammed as “repressive”.

“The president enacted the law on the regulation of the right to hold public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstrations in public places,” presidency spokesman Ehab Badawi said in a statement.

Prime minister Hazem Beblawi told AFP that the new law protects the rights of protesters.

“It is not a law that limits the right to demonstrate, but it aims at protecting the right of protesters,” he said.

Beblawi also said the law does not stipulate that protesters need permission before staging demonstrations, but they must give advance “notice”.

A government source who asked not to be identified said that changes had been made to an earlier draft bill that was strongly criticised by rights groups.

“It allows (protest) organisers to inform the authorities three days before the event, rather than the earlier seven days,” the source said.

Other details of the law were still unknown, but Egyptian rights groups had earlier slammed the draft prepared by the justice ministry last month.

“The draft law seeks to criminalise all forms of peaceful assembly, including demonstrations and public meetings, and gives the state free hand to disperse peaceful gatherings by use of force,” a group of 19 groups said in a joint statement on Sunday before the law was given the green light.

Egypt’s new military-installed authorities are engaged in a sweeping crackdown on Islamist supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, who regularly stage protests demanding his reinstatement.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in clashes during protests held by Morsi supporters.

On Sunday, backers of the ousted president again staged protests in Cairo and elsewhere.