CAIRO: The right to hold peaceful demonstrations and assembly represents a form of collective expression of opinion granted by the constitution as well as international human rights conventions, according to a draft law recently proposed by the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR).
EOHR Secretary General Hafez Abu Seada presented Thursday a draft law to Moufid Shehab, minister of state for legal and parliamentary affairs, entitled: “Regulating the Right to Peaceful Protest and Assembly.”
The National Council for Human Rights had approved a proposal by Abu Seada to prepare the draft law.
“About three months ago I was in Germany where…I was introduced to the German experience in this domain…[which inspired] me to adopt the European model” to ensure the right to peaceful demonstrations, Abu Seada told Daily News Egypt.
The 13-article draft law recommends that citizens be allowed to practice their rights without restrictions while at the same time abiding by the law and the constitution. The draft law first called for cancelling Law 10 for 1914 on assembly and Law 14 for 1923 on holding general meetings and protests in public.
“These two codes are supposed to regulate such activities. Yet they restrict them as they were imposed during the era of British imperialism to limit freedoms,” Abu Seada explained.
The draft law gives citizens, political parties and civil society organizations the right to peaceful assembly, protest and freedom of expression while being unarmed.
The law proposes a specialized committee be formed by the Ministry of Interior to receive requests for holding meetings and peaceful protests, thereby providing them with the necessary protection. According to the draft law, no force may be used to resolve demonstrations unless necessary.
Another article in the law calls for the right to hold signs, banners, slogans and meet reporters and media representatives during protests.
Organizers of unapproved protests is to be fined, the draft law recommends.
Abu Seada does not rule out the possibility of the law being rejected by the People’s Assembly. “In case of approval … many restrictions [are expected] to be imposed on the law,” he said.
Several rights and freedoms have been restricted by the state of emergency imposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in October 1981. Since then, the Emergency Law has been repeatedly extended, most recently in May 2010.
The emergency law grants authorities a broad power to impose restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, the power to arrest and detain suspects or those deemed dangerous and the power to search individuals and places without following the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
Even though the recent amendment to the emergency law dictates that it can only be imposed on terrorism or drugs-related cases, human rights advocates have recurrently argued that such limitations means citizens are subject to persecution until proven innocent.