ECESR’s lawyers, in collaboration with the Rule of Law Support Center, brought an action against the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister, Cairo Governor, and Hadaeq Qoba Police Commissioner for the decision of preventing Tarek Al-Awadi of organizing a demonstration on Friday, May 2, 2014. The lawyers demanded the abolition of such a decision, including the consequent effects.
It is well-known that the notorious Protest Act 107/2013 that issued to organize the right to public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstrations in contrary to the rights and freedoms enshrined in the 2014 Constitution, has allowed protesters to ask for a licence before going on demonstration. In these circumstances, refusing to give permission to organisers will help mounting anger among rights holders and whoever committed to follow the legal steps approved by the law itself. In addition, the approach of frequent rejection takes us steps backwards. Instead of upholding the rule of law, whatever the law, there is a lack of respect for the law and the Constitution, which provided for a number of freedoms, including the peaceful demonstration.
Al-Awadi and a number of citizens had decided to organize a demonstration to protest against: 1. the rising prices of electricity, water and gas; 2. the law protecting corrupt contracts; 3. the continuation of committing civilians for military courts; 4. and restricting the right to demonstrate. On April 25, 2014, Al-Awadi applied for the competent authority to authorize a peaceful march on Friday, May 2, 2014 to be started just after Friday prayers. It was to be gathered and launched in front of Ateiq Mosque in Waili neighborhood passing through the Khaleeg Street and Waili Market, then Alexander Mina Street to Gendy Canal Street, then Maliha, Mekawi, Deir Malak and Abu Hashish areas, and to be ended on the way back about ten o’clock in front of the Dome Palace.
Al-Awadi said the police officers refused, to his surprise, to receive the written request, so he insisted to file an official report to register the fact of refraining from receipt of the request. After consultations between the Police Commissioner and the leaders of his ministry that lasted for more than four hours, the Commissioner received the application and enclosed it with the following words, “I received the application and I will approve or reject it in accordance with the security circumstances surrounding the Interior Ministry, especially on Friday.” Awadi had frequented to the police station every day to get the approval to organize the demonstration and start procedures, but every time the response was the same: “the ministry did not send its response.” On Thursday, the day preceding the demonstration date, he headed to the police station and insisted not to leave without filing an official report to prove the case. After consultations between the Commissioner and the leaders of his ministry, he rejected the application.
Alaa Abdel Tawab, ECESR’s legal unit director, said, ” Beside the above mentioned demand of abolishing the decision and authorizing the demonstration, the lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of Articles 8 and 10 of the the Presidential Decree 107/2013 [well-known as the Protest Act]. Article 8 provides for a notice to be served on the demonstration’s neighborhood police station, in spite of being an executive body that the demonstration may be held against it or against the practices of its officials. Article 10 confers the Interior Ministry absolute discretionary power to refuse giving permission for holding a demonstration or a general meeting. This power is contrary to the constitutional provision (Article 73) that guarantees the right to demonstrate and hold public meetings with prior notice served on the administrative bodies.
Abdel Tawab stressed that the provisions of the law open the door for authorities to confiscate the right to demonstrate under the name of organizing it and to convert the constitutional provisions into a useless legislative frame.