(Beirut, November 5, 2021) – Days after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the end of Egypt’s nationwide state of emergency on October 25, 2021, the government sent a slew of legal amendments to the parliament, incorporating many emergency-law-like provisions in other laws. The parliament swiftly passed the amendments on November 1. President al-Sisi still needs to formally sign them into law.
“The passing of these amendments in the same breath as the end of the state of emergency shows the Egyptian government’s lack of genuine commitment to ending undue restrictions on basic human rights,” said Amr Magdi, senior Middle East and North Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The government and parliament should be ending all emergency-type restrictions, not declaring new ones.”
One amendment concerns the abusive counterterrorism law of 2015. Article 53, in its current wording, allows the president to “take any appropriate measures to preserve security and public order” including, but not limited to, imposing curfews, evacuating areas, or restricting freedom of movement. The amendment gives the president additional authority to delegate such unchecked powers to any official. Another amendment punishes those who oppose orders imposed under article 53 with a prison sentence of 3 to 15 years and a fine of up to 100,000 pounds (US$6,300).
The amendment to article 36 of the counterterrorism law increases fines for filming, recording, broadcasting, or reporting any facts in a terrorism-related case from a minimum of 100,000 ($6,300) to up to 300,000 pounds ($19,000).
Another amendment permanently extends a 2014 law that expanded the jurisdiction of military prosecutors and courts over civilians in cases related to protests and attacks on public infrastructure such as gas pipelines, oil fields, electricity grids, railways, roads, and bridges. This law had been introduced in October 2014 for five years. The authorities have used this law to refer thousands of civilians for trials in military courts.
Parliament also amended article 80a of the Penal Code to require written permission from the Defense Ministry for anyone who wants to conduct research on the armed forces or collect information – statistics, studies, opinion polls, or data – related to the military. Violators can receive prison sentences ranging from six months to five years and fines from 5,000 ($300) to 50,000 pounds ($3000).