UN criticizes Egypt draft demonstration law

Spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, on Feb. 19 criticized Egypt's draft law on demonstrations for failure to adequately protect freedom of assembly as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and two international rights treaties ratified by Egypt. The draft law requires that organizers inform authorities about protest plans in advance and allows the interior ministry the right to reject demonstrations. Governors will restrict protests to a particular location in each province. Additionally, the draft prohibits using platforms for speakers or the use of tents during sit-ins and bars carrying banners or chanting slogans found to be defamatory or insulting to religious or state institutions. The draft law imposes criminal sanctions on organizers who fail to comply with these legal requirements. The Egyptian government argues that the intent of the legislation is to prevent peaceful and violent protests from mixing. In recommending that the draft law be revised to conform with international treaties, Colville commented that: "No one should be criminalized or subjected to any threats or acts of violence, harassment or persecution for addressing human rights issues through peaceful protests."

From Jurist, Feb. 20. Used with permission.

Egypt court says police have right to grow beards

A court in Egypt ruled Wednesday that policeman may grow beards, ending the long-standing precedent of ex-President Hosni Mubarak barring facial hair because it was considered to be a public display of Islamic support. Writing for Cairo's High Administrative Court, Judge Maher Abu el-Enin rejected a request from the Ministry of Interior to permit it to suspend police officers who violated the unwritten rule established by the country's former ruler. During his reign and up through the Egyptian Revolution, Mubarak used police and other government officials to punish Islamist groups he considered to be enemies of the state, and also prevented bearded Egyptians from holding senior positions in government. Because the Prophet Mohammad was known to have a beard, facial hair is considered to be both a cultural and political symbol throughout much of the Arab world.

From Jurist, Feb. 21. Used with permission.

Egypt court dismisses challenge to constitutional assembly

Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court on March 3 dismissed complaints against the assembly that drafted the country's new constitution, the official MENA news agency reported. The complaints had challenged the method for selecting members of the assembly and said the panel, which liberals and Christians had boycotted, did not represent all Egyptians. The charter was passed in a referendum in December. Opposition to the constitution argue that certain clauses favored Islamic law in Egypt, disadvantaging the large Christian minority in the country. The court continues to examine challenges against the constitutional assembly.

From Jurist, March 3. Used with permission.


Eygpt: army intervenes in clashes

The military intervened in clashes between thousands of protesters and police in Port Said on March 3, the scene of a civil strike now in its second week. Protesters threw rocks and firebombs at police, who responded with tear gas and bird shot in street battles that lasted for hours.Also on that day, a court ruled that Mubarak will face a new trial next month on charges related to the killings of hundreds of p