Activists, lawyers slam new Egyptian counter-terrorism law

Activists, lawyers slam new Egyptian counter-terrorism law
Analysis: New law makes “entire populace” terrorist, say activists.
3 min read
02 March, 2015
Despite bans and draconian laws, protests against Egypt's government continue (Anadolu)

Leading Egyptian lawyers and human rights activists have criticised the Egyptian government’s “catastrophic” new counter-terrorism law.


President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved the ‘terrorist entities’ law consisting of ten articles on Tuesday last week. It has been on the books since November last year and gives the government greater powers in detaining individuals and groups considered harming national unity and disrupting public order.


At a protest in front of the Lawyers’ Syndicate in Cairo on Sunday, however, lawyers called for reform of the police and the interior ministry after the brutal murder of Karim Hamdy, a lawyer at Matariya police station last Wednesday.


     The so-called war on terror is nothing more than a war on the revolution itself... - Haitham Mohamedein

Haithem Mohamedein, a leading human rights activist and member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Socialists, said the counter-terrorism law “puts the entire Egyptian populace in the category of terrorists and its main purpose is to curb the freedoms we gained after the revolution”.


“I was put on these terrorist blacklists before the law was even issued and my assets were seized by the Ministry of Justice. It’s a draconian law that actually proves that the so-called war on terror is nothing more than a war on the revolution itself and our freedoms”, he told al-Araby al-Jadeed.


Article 4 of the newly approved law stipulates “the freezing of assets of the terrorist entities and its individuals if used for terrorist activities”.


Mohamedein’s assets were seized in January this year in connection to state security lists that accused him of terrorist affiliations. The secular activist is a prominent figure of the January 25 revolution that unseated Hosni Mubarak.


On the back of the controversial new law, an Egyptian court has also listed Hamas as a terrorist entity over its alleged links with militant groups in the Sinai.


The law categorises a terrorist group as any entity that calls “by any means, inside or outside the country, for harming individuals, terrorising them or putting their lives, freedoms, rights or security in danger”. Groups and individuals can remain on the terrorist lists for up to three years preventing them from travel or participating in public life.


Ragia Omran, a member of the group No Military Trials for Civilians representing detainees referred to military trials, told al-Araby al-Jadeed the new law is catastrophic in its wide-ranging domestic and international scope targeting several political factions including 6th April youth movement.


“The first trial using this law which deems 6th April a terrorist entity is scheduled this month,” Omran said.


Twelve of the youth movement’s members are currently imprisoned, including one who has was handed a 15-year term last week’s Shura Council trial.


In a statement this weekend, 21 Egyptian human rights organisations noted that the law “relies on a broad, vague definition of actions on the basis of which individuals or groups may be designated terrorists”.


The non-government organisations took issue mostly with the legalistic and semantic reach of Article 1 which designates entities or individuals as terrorists if found “infringing the public order, endangering the safety, interests, or security of society, obstructing provisions of the constitution and law, or harming national unity, social peace, or national security.”


Human rights lawyer and political activist Malek Adly echoed similar sentiments arguing that “this is just the latest of Sisi’s laws and we are sending a message to the regime over the climate of human rights abuses, which include the death of Karim Hamdy, that we will be taking to the streets again”.