Egypt's Sisi approves anti-terrorism law creating special courts

Egypt's Sisi approves anti-terrorism law creating special courts
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved an anti-terrorism law that sets up special courts and provides protections to security forces as his regime battles determined insurgents.
3 min read
17 August, 2015
Sisi has approved an anti-terror law providing protection to its enforcers [Getty]

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved an anti-terror law on Sunday, setting up special courts and providing protection to its enforcers in the face of a two-year-long insurgency that aims to topple his government.

The law details sentences for various terrorism crimes ranging from five years to the death penalty.

It also shields those applying it, such as the military and police, from legal ramifications for the use of force "in performing their duties."

Sisi had promised a tougher legal system in July, after a car bomb attack that killed the top public prosecutor, the highest level state official to be killed in years.

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.

Forming or leading a group deemed a "terrorist entity" by the government will be punishable by death or life in prison. Membership in such a group will carry up to 10 years in jail.

Financing "terrorist groups" will also carry a life sentence in prison, which in Egypt is 25 years. Inciting violence, which includes "promoting ideas that call for violence" will lead to between five and seven years in jail, as will creating or using websites that spread such ideas.

Journalists will be fined for contradicting the authorities' version of any terrorist attack. The original draft of the law was amended following domestic and international outcry after it initially called for imprisonment for such an offence.

Last month, the Cairo-based Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) issued a statement criticising the draft of the anti-terror law for representing a "flagrant violation" of basic rights enshrined in the Egyptian constitution and international laws.

The non-profit NGO also called on political parties and civil society organisations to announce their rejection of the law.

"We now have a definite anti-terror law in Egypt. We now have 90 million possible terrorism suspects. We no longer have any signs of a civil state", ANHRI chief Gamal Eid said today in a tweet, commenting on the approval of the law.

Egypt is facing 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 witnessed attacks.

The insurgency, which has killed hundreds of soldiers and police, has intensified since then-army chief Sisi ousted the Islamist former President Mohamed Morsi after mass protests against his rule in 2013.

Sisi has since overseen a crackdown on Islamists. Thousands of alleged Islamist supporters have been jailed and scores have been sentenced to death, including Morsi and other senior Muslim Brotherhood figures.

The government considers the Brotherhood a terrorist group and does not distinguish between it and other militants. The Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful activism.

In February, Sisi signed off on another anti-terrorism law that gave authorities sweeping powers to ban groups on charges ranging from harming national unity to disrupting public order.