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Egypt: Supreme Constitutional Court Rules Law Regulating Public Gatherings to Be Unconstitutional

(Dec. 19, 2016) On December 3, 2016, the Egyptian Supreme Constitutional Court decided that article 10 of Law no. 107 of 2013, known as “the Protest Law,” violates the Egyptian Constitution of 2014.  (Law No.107 of 2013, 47 AL-JARĪDAH AL-RASMĪYYAH (duplicate) (Nov. 24, 2013, at 2 (in Arabic).)  The Court stated that article 10 is in a direct violation of constitutional provision 73, which states that it is the right of an individual to protest, and no authority should interfere with that right.  (Constitution of the Arab Republic of Egypt (2014), State Information Service website (unofficial translation).)

The Protest Law was issued by Interim President Adly Mansour.  The purpose of the Law is to regulate public gatherings.  The Law requires that organizers of any public gatherings such as protests, marches, or even general meetings submit a written notification to the nearest police station with their plans at least three working days in advance of the event.  (Sarah El-Sheikh, Constitutional Court Annuls Interior Ministry’s Right to Ban Protests, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Dec. 3, 2016).)

Article 10 grants the Ministry of Interior (equivalent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) the right to ban protests.  It allows the Minister of Interior or the security director concerned to cancel, postpone, or modify the route of a protest if the official has acquired “serious information or evidence that the assembly would threaten national peace and security.”  (Id.)

As a response to the decision of the Constitutional Court concerning the abolishment of article 10 of the Protest Law, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail announced that the Cabinet planned to amend the Law.  (Sarah El-Sheikh, Prime Minister Confirms Amendment of Protest Law, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Dec. 4, 2016).)  On December 7, 2016, the Cabinet approved during its weekly meeting a draft law to modify article 10.  The proposed modification of the provision stipulates that the Minister of Interior or any concerned official, such as a security director, has the right to demand that a judge annul, postpone, or re-locate a protest if any information regarding potential threats to public safety surfaces prior to a planned protest’s taking place.  Accordingly, the judge should issue a verdict on whether or not to postpone, move, or cancel the protest.  The organizers would also be granted the opportunity to appeal the court’s decision.  (Cabinet Approves Modifying Controversial Article in 2013 Protest Law, DAILY NEWS EGYPT (Dec. 7, 2016).)