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On January 25 Anniversary: ECESR Submits Protest Act Proposed Amendment to the President

قانون التظاهر
قانون التظاهر

The current Act is full of constitutional and executive flaws

The proposed amendment poses a different vision to protect the dignity and rights of citizenry and to guarantee security

ECESR calls upon all political parties, civil society organizations, and stakeholders to participate

Last Thursday, the ECESR sent the Presidential Institution, the Cabinet of Ministers, and the Legislative Reform Commission a recently prepared draft law to amend the Presidential Decree 107/2013, known as the Protest Act, which was issued to organize the right of public assembly, processions and peaceful demonstrations.

The ECESR confirms that the proposed draft law stems from its belief that the road to the state of security, stability and progress at all levels is paved through the achievement of equality of all citizens before the law. It believes in respecting all rights and duties, forbidding bloodshed, and halting the accusations of innocent people on trumped-up charges. The ECESR, therefore, calls for the immediate release of all prisoners (young people, workers, residents, and prisoners of conscience) captured in protest-related acts; it calls on the state to legally recognize the right to freedom of organization and peaceful protest, and to achieve the principles of the revolution: the right to bread, freedom, human dignity and social justice. ECESR calls on all political parties and entities, civil society organizations, and stakeholders to participate in this proposed draft law with the purpose of amending the Protest Act.

Protest Act Background

The draft law launched on Jan 25th anniversary was proposed to amend the arbitrary law, which is not the first of its kind to be issued after the 2011 revolution in order to curb the pro-democracy and -social justice demonstrations. Three days after Mubarak stepped down, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), issued the statement No. 5 condemning the continuation of what it described as “sectoral” movements and called for halting them. Two months later, the SCAF issued the Law Decree 34/2011 that criminalized sit-ins, strikes and “sectoral” protests, and sentenced instigators and participants to prison and exaggerated bails. Finally, the Transitional Authority, after July 3, 2013, issued the Protest Act that virtually prevented all manifestations of protest and demonstrations and gave the police the right to break up protests by force.

In the explanatory memorandum of the proposed draft law, the ECESR said that many political parties and groups and youth movements had called for repealing the protest Act since it came into effect in November 2013. Their call to repeal the Act was based on the fact that it encroached on the right of assembly, in addition to the number of the young men and women sent to prison for allegedly breaching its provisions.

ECESR Draft Law

The ECESR’s legal and research units then embarked on developing an alternative law to the Protest Act. The ECESR has previously challenged the constitutionality of articles (8) and (10) for being contrary to Article 73 of the 2014 Constitution. In the same context, the ECESR filed a lawsuit before the Supreme Constitutional Court against police brutality and using lethal weapons to break up demonstrations. Being a legal agent on behalf of hundreds of workers, citizens and young people who are spending ages in prison because of this arbitrary law, the ECESR initiated preparing a proposed draft to amend the provisions of the Protest Act to avoid constitutional flaws contained therein, and to achieve the missed balance.

The provisions of the Protest Act didn’t observe the balance between the constitutional right of citizens to assemble and the imperatives of public security. The law has gravely encroached on the right of assembly, and enabled the police forces to reject or break up any gathering without giving justifiable reasons, not to mention the absence of a real judicial supervision on police practices.

The essential modifications developed by the ECESR provided that: 1. all regulations and executive decisions should be issued by the Cabinet of Ministers instead of the Interior Minister or Governors, as required by the Protest Act; 2. The prior notice should be served on the competent Governor, instead of the police department located nearby the gathering; 3. the Administrative Court should supervise the Governor’s decision, in case he decided to cancel those gatherings or postpone them, and make sure that his refusal is based on hard  evidence; 4. the courts should promptly decide on the dispute and before the day fixed for the gathering; 5. Breaking up the gatherings should be gradual and without using lethal force.

The proposed law called for repealing all the Protest Act’s provisions that addressed acts or crimes provided in other laws such as disrupting transportation and carrying arms and ammunition, which are addressed in the Penal Code and Arms and Ammunition Act. The proposed law also repealed all jail sentences handed down on administrative errors committed by participants and limited them to fine punishment. Furthermore, it called for referring the criminal acts to the Penal Code, and for repealing the Assembly Act 10/1941, which is inconsistent with modern Egypt, and for the need to protect the citizens’ right to assemble, protest peacefully and to maintain their lives and their safety and security.