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Op-Ed

No joy in Egypt

A year after the revolution started, human rights abuses continue under the ruling military council.

January 25, 2012|By Daniel Williams

Laws endure that make citizens vulnerable to prosecution for "insulting" speech or words "harmful" to morals or tantamount to changing the existing political order. In March, SCAF added a new wrinkle to restrictions on speech and assembly by criminalizing strikes and demonstrations "that impede public works." In April, a military court sentenced young blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad to three years in prison for "insulting the military establishment" when he criticized army rule on his blog and Facebook page. SCAF said last weekend that Nabil would be pardoned and released along with more than 1,900 other prisoners convicted in military trials. It was a gesture in advance of the Jan. 25 holiday; Nabil shouldn't have been arrested and convicted in the first place.

Egypt seated a new parliament on Monday. It should act quickly to wipe clean the slate of laws that restrict free speech, association and assembly and that permit police too much latitude to shoot protesters. Members of the parliament should limit military court jurisdiction to military officials and repeal the emergency law. Egypt's foreign friends — including the aid-giving U.S. government — should wholeheartedly support the reforms and resist suggestions that continued dictatorship means stability.

With Egypt's revolution in its first stages, the time is now for the parliament to end Egypt's long-term rule by military fiat.

Daniel Williams is a senior researcher in the emergencies division of Human Rights Watch. He was previously a foreign correspondent for the Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Bloomberg News, and has covered the Middle East for the last decade.

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