Egypt's parliament ratifies controversial laws issued by Sisi

Egypt's parliament ratifies controversial laws issued by Sisi
Egypt's new parliament has endorsed dozens of laws in the first two days of voting on hundreds of bills and amendments issued by presidential decree over the past three years.
3 min read
19 January, 2016
Egypt new parliament has endorsed dozens of laws issued by Sisi [Getty]
Egypt's parliament on Monday endorsed 11 more laws on a second day of voting on legislation after three years of not meeting, after backing a controversial anti-terrorism law the day before, The New Arab's Arabic service has reported.

On Sunday, lawmakers held a 12-hour session to begin hurriedly voting on roughly 400 laws that were issued by decree by President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi while he wielded legislative power since the democratically elected chamber was dissolved in mid-2012.

Egyptian members of parliament passed the anti-terrorism law, which sets up special courts, shields its enforcers from legal ramifications and punishes journalists contradicting the authorities' account of any terrorist attack.

The law details sentences for various terrorism-related crimes ranging from five years to the death penalty, and shields the military and police from legal penalties for what it calls proportionate use of force.

The original draft was amended last year following a domestic and international outcry after it initially stipulated imprisonment for such an offence.

MPs held their first session on 10 January to take their parliamentary oaths. The newly elected legislature must review all passed executive decrees within 15 days of its first session and either approve or reject them.

Highlights of the new law

- Law enforcers will not be punished for the use of force "in performing their duties".

- The punishment for journalists contradicting the authorities' account of any terrorist attacks has been reduced from imprisonment to a fine of $25,000 to $63,000.

- 25 years up to the death penalty for anyone who starts, organizes, manages or leads a terrorist group.

- 5 year sentences to anyone convicted of using social media or the internet to promote ideas or beliefs leading to terrorist acts, impede state officials, or communicate with terrorist groups.

- The president has the right to impose a curfew, isolate or evict residents from an area should that area be exposed to an act of terror.

The 56 laws that parliament already approved include an act protecting critical government facilities and expands the jurisdiction of military courts to try civilians accused of attacking buildings and roads.

Also passed were amendments to prisons laws, which allows for periods of solitary confinement of up to 30 days as a punitive measure for inmates and a decree allowing the president to remove the heads of independent authorities such as the head of the Central Bank and of the Central Auditing Organization.

MPs said on Monday that the controversial protest law will not be on the agenda of parliamentary debates anytime soon, local media reported.

In a dramatic turn of events 20 journalists were kicked out of the House, with reports that the decision was based on instructions from unspecified members of a security service.

On Monday, MPs decided to temporarily ban live broadcasts until they finished voting on the laws. They made the decision after 40 MPs submitted a proposal to stop the live broadcasts

Egypt's new parliament, which has 568 elected members plus another 28 appointed directly by the president, is dominated by the "Support Egypt" coalition, an alliance of over 400 MPs loyal to Sisi.

Human rights groups accuse Sisi, who as military chief deposed a freely elected Islamist president in 2013, of rolling back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising that toppled veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, is confronted by an increasingly violent insurgency in North Sinai, where the most active militant group has pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Cairo and other cities have also suffered Islamist attacks.

Sisi has presided over a no-holds-barred crackdown on Islamists. Thousands of alleged Islamist supporters have been jailed and scores have been sentenced to death.

Agencies contributed to this report.