The Egyptian government confirmed on Wednesday that the law criminalizing protests and strikes, which was approved in late April but never fully applied, will be enforced from now on.
The law criminalizing strikes, protests, public gatherings and street assemblies, was issued on 24 March by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet and ratified by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) a month later. However, despite having been ratified, the new law was never fully enforced for political reasons, having met with stiff opposition from revolutionary groups and political parties.
The law stipulates that protesters or strikers disrupting work at state institutions, public authorities, and public or private institutions will be arrested, fined and/or imprisoned, with fines ranging from LE30,000 to LE500,000 (from US$5,000 to US$83,000), and prison sentences of one year or more. Even those promoting strikes or protests but not participating in them are subject to imprisonment and fines reaching up to LE50,000 (around US$8,300).
According to a statement issued by the SCAF on Wednesday, "In order to achieve stability, the cabinet declares the activation of the law that criminalizes strikes and the disruption of production." The statement noted that "some sit-ins and labor strikes led to the disruption of production, decline in investment opportunities and the halt of progress in many government departments."
He said that the law had been activated "so as to avoid further economic risks and to achieve stability for the country."
The government stressed that it "will not hesitate to respond to any attempts by any party or group to disrupt the law or harm the national economy, especially during this critical stage the country is going through."
A number of political movements, including youth organizations formed by the revolutionaries and trade unions, announced their rejection of the new law.
The law has also been criticized by a number of politicians and legal experts, who described it as “a return to the past era” and the former regime's policy of suppressing protests.
Translated from the Arabic Edition