President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree Tuesday approving the “terrorist entities” law, detailing offences necessary for a group or organisation to be labelled a “terrorist entity”, as published in the state newspaper Egyptian Gazette.
Egypt’s State Council approved the draft law on “terrorist entities” in December, which would allow for the dissolution of these entities and ending their activities. The draft law was also approved by the cabinet in November.
The draft must be considered by the president as per Article 156 of the constitution in order to come into effect. The article stipulates the president has the power to issue laws by decree “that have the force of law”. These decrees must be “discussed and approved” by the House of Representatives “within 15 days from the date the new House convenes”.
The upcoming parliamentary election is scheduled to take place in March.
The law consists of 10 articles. Article 1 defines a terrorist entity as any group “practicing or intending to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests or risk its security or harm national unity”.
The law tasks the prosecution with creating a list with the names of terrorist entities and a list with the names of people in or associated with terrorist entities. This includes the names of the leaders, founders, members or participants of the group and can also extend to people who provide “information or support in any way” the listed group.
According to the law, one or more of the districts of the Cairo Appeals Court must consider the names of the enlisted entities or individuals within seven days of the initial request.
According to Article 4 of the new law, names mentioned on either list should not remain for a period of more than three years. Decisions to uphold, remove or extend the duration of any of the names enlisted are to be published in the Egyptian Gazette as per Article 5.
Groups and individuals can appeal their listing through the Court of Cassation within 60 days of being listed.
Articles 7 and 8 of the law stipulate the effects of being enlisted by the force of law on the aforementioned lists. “Terrorist entities” would be banned, their assets and properties seized and their funds or the funds of their members frozen. With regards to the “terrorists”, they would be banned from travel, their passports withdrawn or “cancelled” and they are prevented from issuing a new one, and their funds are frozen.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) had earlier called upon President Al-Sisi to reconsider approving the draft law. The Institute considered it “a violation of the constitution, the Supreme Court’s authority, as well as a contradiction to the international treaties Egypt has signed”, according to its report.
The report, issued on 3 December, raised doubts that the Egyptian government would use the law exclusively in support of the country’s efforts to counter armed militant groups. Although it acknowledged the significance of “the disastrous effect of terrorist attacks in Sinai and other cities”, the report also stated that the “government is using the war against terrorism to silence opposition calls”.
According to lawyer Negad El-Boraie, the new law does not properly define the crime of terrorism, even though it provides detailed definitions of the “terrorist entity” and the “terrorist”.
“In my opinion, the problem lies mainly in the judicial institution and not the legislative institution,” El-Boraie said, “and now the law has become effective, so we have to wait and see how they are going to implement it.”
Article 86 of the Egyptian Penal Code stipulates that terrorism “shall include all use of force, violence, threatening, or frightening, which a felon resorts to in execution of an individual or collective criminal scheme, with the aim of disturbing public order, or exposing the safety and security of society to danger”.
There are currently several pending cases which were filed against various opposition groups in order to designate them as “terrorist entities”.
In February 2014, the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters issued an order declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a banned terrorist organisation. As a consequence, since then a number of students, journalists and protesters have been detained with the charge of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood “terrorist” group.