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Rights groups call anti-terrorism law ‘a blow to the Constitution’

The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) released a report on Wednesday describing the recently issued anti-terrorism law as “a new blow to the constitution.”

The law, which was ratified by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on August 15, was criticized for “destroying the state of law, consolidating the undeclared state of emergency with the excuse of protecting society and national unity, and preventing the promotion of violence.”

“CIHRS and EIPR assert that the current security, legislative and judiciary policies aggravate the acts of political revenge and terrorism instead of stopping them,” the report said. “This is part of the problem, not the solution.”

The organizations also stated that the law encourages those enforcing it to use lethal force and guarantees their impunity, since it exempts them from criminal responsibility when using force to “perform their duties.”

According to the report, the law essentially allows the president, or anyone he authorizes, to take any measure deemed fit, under the pretext of “maintaining security and public order,” to deal with a perceived terrorist threat. 

Mohamed Zarea, the head of CIHRS, asserted that “the latest law terrorizes political groups and parties, civil rights organizations and media outlets rather than posing a threat to violent extremist groups.”

He added that the law intensifies the lockdown on the public sphere in Egypt, “which can only benefit those extremist groups.”

This is only made worse in the absence of effective monitoring of law enforcers, he points out. “In reality, the justice system is not shackled by laws, rather by security interference and the popular discourse on fighting terrorism,” he added. 

Executive head of EIPR, Gasser Abdel Razek, asserted that “the political polarization washing over the Egyptian society makes it easier to accuse peaceful opposition groups and human rights organizations of terrorism.”

For example, the spokesperson for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry recently accused Human Rights Watch of supporting terrorism, after HRW released a report on the human rights situation in Egypt during a year under Sisi’s administration. 

CIHRS and EIPR are not the only organizations, however, to slam the controversial law. 

On August 17, Reporters Without Borders Secretary General Christophe Deloire commented on the law, stating that “Egyptians are entering an Orwellian world in which only the government is allowed to say what is happening. Even in countries where freedom of information is highly restricted, laws rarely suppress pluralism so blatantly.”

The International Commission of Jurists also described the law as a ”repressive move that would erode the rule of law and brush aside fundamental legal and human rights guarantees.”

In July, Amnesty International deemed the draft version of the law as “draconian” and a flagrant attack on the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.

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