Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sisi's counter-terrorism law: Legalising Egyptian regime's violence

By: Khalil al-Anani


Egypt's counter-terrorism measures put state violence on a legal footing, and legitimise coup regime's all-out assault on basic rights, argues Khalil al-Anani.
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a new terrorism law a few days ago, which is steeped in controversy due to its problematic definitions of terrorism and the unprecedented powers it grants authorities.

In fact, the new law needs another law to explain it, not just because of the vagueness of its terms that can be understood in various ways depending on the mood of whoever is implementing it, but also because the articles of the law overlap with other laws in the penal code.

The law also conflates between normal crimes that do not have a political or ideological purpose and those that do.

The law's article 16 for example has made any attack on "parliamentary buildings, the cabinet office, ministries, governorate buildings, military installations, courts, public prosecution offices, police stations, prisons, security buildings, regulatory offices, historical sites, public buildings, places of worship or education and schools" a terrorist offence.

This means that if a normal citizen felt aggrieved or oppressed by anyone of these institutions and decided to conduct an attack, he would be considered a terrorist.
    The new terrorism law is completely at odds with the constitution that was adopted in January 2014, which protects the basic rights and freedoms of citizens

This is why many people have considered the new terrorism law as being a new emergency law that bolsters the totalitarian regime in Egypt by granting it more powers and destroying the last vestiges of justice, freedom and privacy.

In truth, this law was designed for this very purpose, which is to legalise and legitimise the current regime's authoritarian practices and violations.

On the one hand, the law provides security forces that might take part in grave violations such as the recent extrajudicial killings with complete immunity, and on the other, it has established a court dedicated to dealing with terrorism cases, which has clear political implications.

The law also grants this specialised terrorism court a wide-ranging remit that goes beyond its judicial authority, such as the authority to expel foreigners who might be involved in terrorist activities, so as not to embarrass the regime in international circles.

Most worryingly, however, is that the new law limits the freedom to share information on 'terrorist attacks' by threatening journalists who do not adhere to the regime's version of events with a fine of up to $64000. 

Some might argue that the regime does not need laws to legitimise its crimes. If even if this is the case, the coup regime is keen to give its practices the legal protection it feels may one day provide the perpetrators of some protection from being held to account for these crimes. 

The bizarre thing is the recently approved counter-terrorism measures are at odds with the constitution that was adopted in January 2014, which protects basic rights -such as the right to private communications, they very principal of which is undermined and trampled on by the new legislation. 

These measures have never been intended to protect anyone in Egypt except the regime's security forces, its assorted thugs, and corrupt officials.

Sisi's law seeks to legalise state terror and legitimise the regime's all out assault on basic rights.

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