Law regulating right to protest stirs criticism from MPs

The People's Assembly Human Rights Committee referred a bill regulating the right to protest to the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Tuesday, after it had provoked sharp criticisms from several MPs who described it as a return to the regime of former President Mubarak.

The bill imposes penalties more than those imposed during the British occupation, and restricts the freedoms provided by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, argued MP Mohamed Monib, following a joint meeting by both committees.

Adel Afify, undersecretary of the human rights committee, ridiculed the bill. "It should have been appended with Mubarak's signature," he said.

Meanwhile, Sobhi Saleh, an MP from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, described the bill as one of the most important pieces of legislation, as it regulates future peaceful protests. He illustrated that he had been requested to reword and combine nine earlier bills submitted in that respect, which resulted in the newest form.

Mohamed al-Omda, another MP, defended the bill, and said it handles protests rather than strikes. He pointed out that the bill includes articles that allow protesting without prior notification to the Interior Ministry and does not infringe on workers' right to strike and protest.

But the chairman of the legislative committee, Mahmoud al-Khodairy, said the existing penal code includes articles that handle protest-related crimes, which can be intensified if necessary. He called for withdrawing any bills regulating protests so as not to be mistaken for measures against the right to demonstrate.

On Thursday, the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights warned that a law being prepared by the legislative committee would restrict the right to protest. Earlier this month, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that the cabinet was preparing a draft law on the same issue which it intended to submit to the People’s Assembly. It is unclear whether the cabinet’s draft law is the one being discussed by the legislative committee.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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