Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved, in mid-August, a new anti-terror law aimed at strengthening the country’s efforts in combatting a rising terror insurgency. The August 2015 anti-terror law was preceded by the Terrorist Entities law issued in December of last year, both of which have come under local and international criticism.
Critics of the most recent law say that it shields law enforcement personnel from accountability for use of force when implementing the law, restricts journalists from reporting on counterterror operations that contradict official government statements, and provides authorities with a de facto state of emergency through a presidential decree.
TEXT OF EGYPT’s anti-terror law
-A terrorist group is defined as a group consisting of “at least three people which aims to commit one or more terrorist crimes, or for which terrorism is one of the means used to achieve its criminal purposes.”
-A terrorist act is defined as the use of force or violence “for the purpose of disturbing public order, endangering the safety, interests, or security of the community; harming individuals and terrorizing them; jeopardizing their lives, freedoms, public or private rights, or security, or other freedoms and rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the law; harms national unity, social peace, or national security or damages the environment, natural resources, antiquities, money, buildings, or public or private properties or occupies or seizes them; prevents or impedes public authorities, agencies or judicial bodies, government offices or local units, houses of worship, hospitals, institutions, institutes, diplomatic and consular missions, or regional and international organizations and bodies in Egypt from carrying out their work or exercising all or some of their activities, or resists them or disables the enforcement of any of the provisions of the Constitution, laws, or regulations.”
-Incitement to commit a terrorist crime shall be punished with the same penalty as though the terrorist crime was carried out. Penalties for terrorist crimes range include the death penalty, sentences ranging from seven years in prison to life imprisonment (twenty-five years).
-Enforcers of the provisions of the law (ie security forces) are not “held criminally accountable for the use force to perform their duties…when the use of this right is necessary and adequate to avert the risk.”
-Communication with foreign countries or associations with the aim of committing or preparing a terrorist crime in Egypt is punishable by life imprisonment. If the crime is carried out, the punishment is the death penalty.
-Any Egyptians who, without written permission from the relevant authority, cooperate with or enlist in the armed forces of a foreign state, and use terrorism, military training, military arts, combat methods, tricks or skills as means to achieve their objectives in the perpetration or preparation of terrorist crimes shall be punished by imprisonment for no less than ten years, even if the actions of these entities do not target Egypt.
-Promoting a terrorist crime, verbally or in writing, is punishable by five years in prison. Indirect promotion includes promotion of ideas and beliefs inciting the use of violence. Promotion of a terrorist crime inside a house of worship, or among members of the armed or police forces is punishable by seven years in prison.
-Using websites or social media to promote terrorist ideas or calling for the perpetration of terrorist acts or “broadcasting material intended to mislead security authorities, influence the course of justice in any terrorist crime, exchange messages, issue assignments among terrorist groups or their members, or exchange information relating to the actions or movement of terrorists or terrorist groups domestically and abroad” is punishable by no less than five years hard labor.
-Hacking government affiliated websites to obtain, erase, or falsify data is punishable by no less than ten years hard labor.
-Publishing or promoting false news or statements on terrorist acts or counterterror operations contrary to official Ministry of Defense statements shall face a fine ranging from 200,000 to 500,000 Egyptian pounds. Anyone convicted will be prevented from practicing their profession for up to one year if the crime is a breach of ethics of their profession.
-In the event of danger terrorist crimes, the President can issue a curfew for a period of up to six months. The decree must be approved by the House of Representatives within one week. In the absence of an elected House of Representatives, the responsibility falls on the cabinet. The curfew may be extended upon parliamentary approval.