Twenty-one NGOs condemned Saturday the terrorist entities law for its ambiguity and restriction of freedoms and rights.
Article 1 of the 10-article law specifically came under fire. The first article defines a terrorist entity as any group “practicing or intending to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests or risk its security or harm national unity”.
The law includes “broad terms in its definition of terrorist entities”, the NGOs statement said. The undersigned organisations note the law relies on a broad, vague definition of actions on the basis of which individuals or groups may be designated terrorists. Under this definition, human rights defenders, political parties, or developmental associations may be easily labelled terrorist entities and their members terrorists, explained the joint statement.
The NGOs also discussed the law’s constitutionality, saying that such broad terms utterly contravene several rulings issued by the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC) on the adoption of ambiguous penal provisions. They added that it allows the authorities to interpret these provisions to serve their own interests.
“Most puzzling is that the definition of terrorist entities and terrorists in the law is broader even than the definition of terrorism in Article 86 of the Penal Code, which was also condemned by rights groups for its overly broad language,” the statement said.
The law does not specify the means involving the use of violence or armed force, the statement continued. Statements, reports, protests, or newspaper articles could be tackled under such a law if they are deemed to constitute “an infringement of the public order or social peace”.
“We believe this provision could intimidate and threaten opinions that oppose the government using peaceful methods”, the NGOs said.
They added the law undermines the freedom of peaceful assembly, the freedom to form civic associations and political parties, and freedom of the press, opinion, and expression. “As written, the law could be applied to individuals even if they belong to no organisational entity,” they stated.
This and other exceptional laws will act as a tool to target political actors and all independent voices that criticise the government’s performance and express their opinions peacefully, the statement emphasised.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) had urged President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi not to sign and issue the bill in a legal commentary on the proposed law.
However, the president issued a decree Tuesday approving the terrorist entities law, detailing offences necessary for a group or organisation to be labelled a ‘terrorist entity’.
CIHRS, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression and Hisham Mubarak Law Center were among the signatory NGOs.