The House of Representatives approved amendments to the Protest Law during a general session on Monday. The amendments were submitted by the government with the parliament rejecting other drafts submitted by several members of parliament (MPs).
The amendments include changes to Article 10 of the law, along with a few other articles. The Constitutional Court had in December declared Article 10 unconstitutional, which led to the parliament in January to acknowledge the unconstitutionality of the article.
A number of MPs who had prepared rejected drafts decided to abstain from voting on the government’s drafted amendments. Among these MPs was Tarek El-Khouly, who is a member in the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and the presidency’s Detained Youth Committee.
Monday’s session was scheduled to see final discussions regarding the amendments and casting votes on the government’s draft. According to El-Khouly, the Constitutional and Legislation Affairs Committee had previously in January decided to discuss the government draft only, rejecting other drafts.
The parliament started discussions on the amendments on Sunday in the Constitutional and Legislation Affairs committee and the Defence and National Security committee.
As for Article 10, the government draft says that the Ministry of Interior has to present a request to a judge regarding cancelling or postponing the demonstration, moving it to another place, or changing its path. The judge then has to immediately issue a decision and an explanation for it.
The suggestion also included that individuals wishing to protest have the right to appeal the decision in accordance with the law.
Article 10 is the one responsible for regulating ways of notifying the interior ministry about any scheduled protest.
The Constitutional Court’s declaration in December regarding the article included that the Ministry of Interior no longer has the right to reject nor ban protests, after it was able to cancel, postpone, or modify the route of a protest if they had acquired “serious information or evidence that the assembly would threaten national peace and security.”
However, protesters still have to notify the ministry, as the main focus of the law was that organisers of any public assembly should submit a written notice to the nearest police station with their plans at least three working days in advance.
The notices so far have always been rejected, leading to politicians and activists questioning the law’s validity in its practical application.
The parliament decided to discuss amendments to the law after the Constitutional Court’s declarations four month ago, which led MPs to prepare several suggestions for the amendment of the law. There are, however, further controversial articles in the Protest Law that had been upheld by the Constitutional Court, including Articles 7 and 19 that impose penalties on any protestor who violate the law’s regulations.
The Protest Law was established in 2013 by interim president Adly Mansour to regulate the right to public meetings, processions, and peaceful demonstrations.