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Egypt: rights activists slam expansion of army powers

The Egyptian regime’s plan to expand the security powers of the army through a new law adopted by parliament has sparked widespread anger among human rights activists.

The parliament approved amendments to the national terrorism law on Sunday, under which the military and police will have permanent responsibility for protecting public infrastructure, essentially handing them control of facilities including gas pipelines, oil fields, power stations, roads, bridges and railway tracks. It also stipulates that anyone accused of trespassing on or damaging such infrastructure will be prosecuted in military courts.

The amendments give the Egyptian president the authority to take “measures necessary to preserve security and public order,” including the imposition of curfews.

Moreover, while some rights advocates welcomed the recent abolition of the state of emergency, many have criticized the government’s plan to address human rights, describing the move as “merely a public relations stunt.” They pointed out that the amendments give the president and military some powers similar to those they held under the now-lifted state of emergency.

Regime supporters, however, argue that the new legislation is an “inherent right of the state… within the framework of protecting its assets and property from theft, damage and vandalism.”

The changes in the law come at a time when Egypt has been attempting to curb what has been described by international media as “human rights violations” after being under scrutiny by the US and Europe.

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