Constitutional amendments help entrench emergency law?

Open letter to
the Speaker and the Members of the People’s Assembly of Egypt

Dr Fathi Sorour, Speaker
The People’s Assembly

Cairo-Paris, 14 March 2007


As the People’s Assembly is preparing for the general floor debate on the 34 draft amendments of the Egyptian Constitution, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) wishes to express its concern at what it considers would amount to new threats to individual rights and freedoms, particularly regarding the new counter-terrorism measures being proposed.

As proposed by President Hosni Mubarak, the Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee drafted a new Article 179 to be introduced in the Constitution, which would provide for "constitutional protection of the measures" taken in the fight against terror.

A constitutional provision was specifically requested that would allow counter-terrorism measures to avoid the basic rights provisions of Articles 41 (on arrest and due process), 44 (on house searches) and 45 (on the privacy of correspondence and communications) of the Constitution. In addition, the proposed amendment will give the President of the Republic the power to refer any “terrorist crime” to any of the judicial authorities stated in the constitution or the law.

Therefore, new article 179 as proposed, is likely to grant security forces unlimited authority to detain persons, raid residences, and monitor postal and telephone communications without court permission, as part of anti-terror measures. It will also grant the President the power to refer anyone suspected of terrorism to jurisdictions of exception.

FIDH recalls that Article 86 of the Penal Code gives a very broad definition of terrorism as it defines as “terrorism” such acts that could fall under the peaceful exercise of human rights protected both by the Constitution and by international human rights treaties ratified by Egypt, such as the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

As already expressed by its partner organizations in Egypt, FIDH fears that the proposed amendments will weaken the constitutional guarantees of human rights in order to pave the way for lifting the State of Emergency in favor of a counter-terrorism law and will “sustain the atmosphere of impunity and even embed it in the Constitution”.

FIDH therefore urges you, Members of the People’s Assembly, to take the expressed concerns into consideration when Article 179 will be reviewed during the general floor debate and to propose to redraft the amendment in order to bring it in conformity with Egypt’s obligations under international and Human Rights law and to ensure an effective constitutional protection of basic human rights and freedoms to each Egyptian citizen, including in the context of the fight against terrorism.

Sidiki Kaba


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