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Civil Society Groups Condemn Attacks On Freedoms In Egypt

10 December 2013. The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and SOLIDAR, join in strongly condemning attacks on fundamental freedoms in Egypt. Rising restrictions on public debate have imperiled the aspirations for justice and freedom which underpinned the Egyptian revolution.

We are deeply concerned about the enactment of the “Law on the Right to Public Meetings, Processions and Peaceful Demonstrations (Law 107 of 2013)” which was approved by Interim President Adly Mansour on November 24. This highly restrictive law violates well established international human rights law standards and places arbitrary limitations on the right to peaceful assembly. Its provisions give security officials excessive and discretionary powers to clamp down on public demonstrations and on the right to protest peacefully under the garb of protecting "security and peace".

We are already seeing the negative effects of this draconian law on civil society freedoms in Egypt. Worryingly, on 26 November, security forces arrested over 70 protestors in Cairo under the newly adopted law. The protestors, led by the human rights group No Military Trials for Civilians, were detained outside of the Shura Council for taking part in a protest declared “illegal”. On November 27, arrest warrants were issued against prominent civil society activists Alaa Abdelfattah and Ahmad Maher, co-founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, on charges of having organized the protest without notification.

We are also shocked by the excessive and unjust prison sentences handed out on November 28, by the Misdemeanor Court in Sidi Gaber in Alexandria to 21 female protestors for marching in support of deposed President Mohammad Morsi. Worryingly, 14 of the protesters were sentenced with harsh imprisonment of up to 11 years although seven minors who were due to be remanded to a juvenile centre were given a presidential pardon.

We believe that security and peace go hand in hand with social justice. Restricting the right to assembly limits various forms of peaceful political expression that poses no threat to society but simply represents a public call to address the main challenges in the country, including the high level of poverty and inequality. Consequently, restricting the right to assembly will prevent the different social groups from their right to claim their legitimate economic, cultural and social rights.

The adoption and repeated invocation of Law 107 to stifle non-violent protests represents the most recent attempt by the interim government to reverse the rights secured by Egyptian citizens during the revolution. Egypt’s interim government must take immediate action to ensure that the positive democratic gains made during the revolution are protected and the people’s right to assemble peacefully is not stifled.

ANND, SOLIDAR and CIVICUS call on the interim government of Egypt to:

• Amend “Law 107” to ensure that it complies with international standards on the right to freedom of assembly.

• Immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against all peaceful demonstrators detained and convicted for exercising their legitimate right to assemble.

• Publicly condemn and refrain from excessive use of force against civil society activists and peaceful demonstrators.

ENDS

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