Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Aug. 17 approved a 54-article counter-terrorism law which has been assailed by Amnesty International and other rights groups as violating the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and other international standards to which Egypt is a party. Amnesty warned that the legislation would make permanent powers usually reserved fior a state of emergency, and would effectively overturn the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and free association.
Article 2 instates a vague and sweeping definition of terrorism, which includes the use of force or threats to "disturb public order" or "endanger social safety and security," or any act that "undermines national unity, social peace and national security." Article 8 absolves law enforcement agents from criminal responsibility if they use force to implement the law, or to protect themselves, others or property from "imminent danger." The law says the use of force must be "necessary and proportionate," but that is to be determined by Egypt's judiciary, which has rarely held members of the security forces accountable. Article 18 stipulates that anyone using violence or the threat thereof to overthrow the government or change the "ruling system" will be punished by 10 years to life in prison. Article 28 criminalizes "directly or indirectly" promoting terrorist acts, with words or any other means. Article 29 criminalizes establishment of a social media account or website to promote "ideas or beliefs" that encourage terrorism or violence. Article 35 sets a fine of up to $64,000 for publication or broadcast of "false news" about terrorist acts or security operations—defined as anything that differs from official statements by the Defense Ministry. Article 50 creates special tribunals to "fast-track" terrorism cases. (Jurist, Aug. 18; AP, BBC News, Aug. 17; AI, Aug. 12)