Egypt's protest laws draw fire

Feb. 26, 2013 at 8:58 AM

NEW YORK, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Human Rights Watch said the spirit of the Egyptian revolution in 2011 is undermined by draft legislation that would curtail the right to public assembly.

Long-time Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign in February 2011 following weeks of protests against his regime. Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Middle East programs at Human Rights Watch, said draft legislation on demonstrations making its way to Egyptian lawmakers poses a serious concern.

"This law as drafted would severely restrict one of the key human rights that determine Egyptians' ability to continue to call for bread, freedom and social justice," she said in a statement from New York.

The rights group said it was concerned about prohibitions on demonstrations that would interfere with vehicle traffic. Police, under the proposed rules, would be allowed to use force to disperse protesters who violate terms of the restrictions.

Egypt is preparing for parliamentary elections in April. Some political movements and groups said they'd boycott the election. President Mohamed Morsi, elected in June, has faced growing opposition from disenfranchised Egyptians.

Whitson said Morsi's government has a right to regulate public demonstrations "but not to ban them for spurious reasons."

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