Egypt: New anti-terrorism laws could lead to mass death sentences

New counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped, said Amnesty International today.

Two draft anti-terror laws, which were sent to interim president Adly Mansour in April could be signed off at any time, giving the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression, imprison political opponents and impose mass death sentences.

The legislation will widen the scope for use of the death penalty, imposing it even where “terrorist” acts committed do not cause loss of life. This includes the crimes of founding, managing or administering a terrorist group.

Since the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency last July, Egypt has seen a rise in deadly armed attacks which have targeted government buildings, army checkpoints and personnel, mainly in the restive North Sinai region.

In the draft laws sent to Interim President Adly Mansour, the existing definition of terrorism is expanded to include actions aimed at “damaging national unity, natural resources, monuments… hindering the work of judicial bodies… regional and international bodies in Egypt, and diplomatic and consular missions”.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“The definition of terrorism potentially criminalises strikes and peaceful demonstrations in schools, universities and those emanating from mosques, under the pretext that such legitimate activities harm national unity, hamper the work of national institutions and damage the economy.

“Rather than reducing the number of capital crimes, the Egyptian authorities are expanding them to include crimes which do not cause a loss of life.  Disturbingly, this could feasibly lead to even more mass death sentences”

Notes to editors:

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