Rights Group: Egypt Must Change Repressive Laws

Published January 16, 2012 3:09PM (EST)

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's newly elected parliament should urgently reform laws used to curb freedoms and repress rights, a U.S.-based human rights group said on Monday.

Human Rights Watch said the newly elected parliament, the first since the ouster of former leader Hosni Mubarak in an uprising, should make it a priority to reform laws that limit association and assembly, allow indefinite detention without charge and shield an abusive police force from accountability.

In a report entitled "The Road Ahead: A Human Rights Agenda for Egypt's New Parliament," the rights organization outlined nine areas where the government needed to reform. According to the group, the country's penal code, assembly law and emergency laws limit public freedoms required for a move toward democracy.

"Egypt's stalled transition can be revived only if the new parliament dismantles Egypt's repressive legal framework, the toolbox the government has relied on for decades to silence journalists, punish political opponents, and stifle civil society," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"Egypt's new political parties need to live up to the promises of the Egyptian uprising by ensuring that no government can ever again trample on the rights of the Egyptian people," she added.

According to Human Rights Watch, the ruling military has relied on existing laws to arrest protesters and journalists and to try over 12,000 civilians before military courts.

Human Rights Watch said reforming the laws should top the parliament's agenda when it convenes on Jan. 23.

Egypt's largest Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, won more than 45 percent of parliament seats in polls that began on Nov. 28.

By Salon Staff

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