The Egyptian parliament, on Monday, July 12, approved a new law according to which the government can dismiss government employees and other civil servants if they are suspected of having links to “terrorist groups” and stand accused of carrying out acts against the economic interests of the state. The new legislation, passed by the house of representatives, the lower house of the parliament, allows for “non-disciplinary dismissal” of public servants with alleged links to groups on the government’s terrorism list, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as some liberal and leftist groups. Along with being fired, the employees in question will also be subject to asset freeze and a 60-day travel ban.
Human rights groups and activists expressed concern that the new law can be misused by the government to target anyone who is critical of the government of president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Since coming to power in 2013, the government has embarked on a systematic campaign of persecution against human rights activists, journalists, writers, opposition groups and protesters. Many Muslim Brotherhood members have been put to death following trials which were labeled unfair and ‘sham’ by rights groups.
More than 60,000 political prisoners are reportedly imprisoned by the government without charge or trial. According to the human rights group, Committee for Justice, at least 1000 political prisoners have already died in custody since Sisi took power in a military coup against Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in July 2013. Egypt has also been named among the world’s top executioners, tripling its use of the death penalty from 32 in 2019 to 107 in 2020.
The new legislation, which is an amendment to the existing 1972 Dismissal Without Disciplinary Act, will come into effect pending presidential approval. According to news reports, the government tried to blame a number of deadly train accidents in recent months on state employees affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and other “terrorist groups.” The dismissed employees will be given the opportunity to appeal the decision in the country’s administrative courts.
Along with the anti-terror law, the house of representatives also extended the state of emergency in the country for another three months starting from 1 am on July 24, 2021. The decision was taken after president Sisi issued a decree to the effect. The reasons cited is to preserve security in Egypt, protect all public and private property, and to allow the Egyptian military and other security forces to take all measures to fight terrorism. The country has been living under a state of emergency since 2017, conditions that have enabled the Sisi government to keep a tight grip on the country and to swiftly crush any opposition.