In a Comment on Protest Law, EIPR Demands Immediate Repeal of Law and Urges Courts to Refrain from Enforcing its Provisions

Press Release

11 September 2014

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights demanded the immediate repeal of the protest law as unconstitutional. It also urged courts to refrain from enforcing the law’s provisions, in a paper released today titled “A Law to Silence,” which offers commentary on the constitutionality of the law.

The paper concludes that the law is unconstitutional given provisions that entail numerous violations of a basic human right that occupies a privileged position in successive Egyptian constitutions and international human rights conventions—namely, the right of peaceful assembly. The paper urges the immediate repeal of the law, which has directly circumscribed a whole set of basic rights and threatens thousands of Egyptians from across the political spectrum with imprisonment in more than 50 court cases, among them Yara Sallam, an EIPR researcher, whose trial will resume on Saturday, 13 September.

Law 107/2013 on the regulation of the right of public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstration, promulgated by presidential decree on 24 November 2013, was issued in a time of political confusion and contradictions. As such, in its treatment of a matter of public rights and liberties, the provisions of the law lack precision and were clearly hastily drafted. In fact, we believe that the law was crafted to achieve a particular objective: ending demonstrations opposed to the current regime. The law is therefore an example of the use of legislation as a repressive, authoritarian tool to circumscribe guarantees for individual civil rights and liberties and their exercise.

“The provisions of the law in its current form constitute a flagrant infringement of several constitutional principles, first and foremost the principle of legal legitimacy and the proportionality between the crime and the punishment,” said Tareq Abd al-Aal, the lead author of the paper. “It also exceeds the statutory limits for the regulation of the exercise of rights and liberties and makes excessive use of criminalization. In turn, the courts should not apply the law’s provisions, even if the Constitutional Court does not speak on the law, based on the following ruling from the Court of Cassation: ‘A lower legislative authority may not repeal, amend or violate a statute issued by a higher authority. If the lower authority does so, the court must apply the highest, most elevated statute—to wit, the constitution—and abandon all other provisions that conflict with or contravene it.’”

The paper is divided into three main sections. The first deals with the nature of the right of peaceful assembly, looking at its content, guarantees and the constitutional guidelines for statutory regulation of the right as enshrined in international human rights conventions and court rulings in democratic contexts. Part two examines the regulation of the right of assembly in the Egyptian constitution, with a focus on the Supreme Constitutional Court, while part three contains our detailed explication of the unconstitutional aspects of the law.

The paper is available in Arabic here