A new law on violating public enterprises puts everyone under the authority’s thumb

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The cabinet headed by Dr. Moustafa Madbouly has approved a draft for the amendment of some of the criminal code’s articles concerning violating public enterprises and employees including, first and foremost, police officers and judges with punishments up to imprisonment for life. There is widespread fear that this law will be used to harass and prosecute people like lawyers. Although many doctors complained of the authority’s failure to protect them against assaults, the amendments came to further increase the powers of the authority’s instruments, such as the police and judicial institutions, more than any other category.

The amendments stipulated penalising whoever insults, verbally or by reference, a public employee, a policeman, or anyone assigned to public service in the course of his work or because of doing his duty with imprisonment of no less than a year and no more than two years, a fine no less than EGP 20,000 ($1,256) and not exceeding EGP 50,000 ($3,139), or one of the two penalties.

The draft law differentiated between public employees and judges as the second passage of the first article specified that should the insult be directed to a court or one of its members during the course of a hearing, the penalty then will be imprisonment for no less than five years and no more than seven years and a fine of no less than EGP 50,000 and not exceeding EGP 100,000 ($6,278).

The amendments also included the charge of disturbing public authorities, administration entities, and those assigned to public services. Whoever reports a non-existent disaster, incident, or danger will be penalised with imprisonment, a fine that ranges between EGP 1,000-20,000 ($62.78-1,256), or both.

The law punishes anyone who assaulted a public employee or forcibly or violently resisted him in the course of doing his job or because of it with imprisonment for no less than one year and a fine no less than EGP 10,000 ($627.75) and not exceeding EGP 20,000. Moreover, should that be associated with beating or an injury, the punishment will be imprisonment for no less than two years and a fine of no less than EGP 20,000 and not exceeding EGP 50,000.

The period of imprisonment increased to three to five years and the fine ranges between EGP 50,000-100,000 if a sharp object, a weapon, or any other tool was used or if the beating or injury reached the degree of gravity stipulated in Article no. 241.

The new law hands out a punishment of imprisonment for up to 10 years if force, violence, or threat was used to coerce an employee to wrongfully perform some aspect of his job, or refrain from doing it. The penalty becomes rigorous imprisonment if the culprit beat the employee or caused an injury that resulted in permanent disability, whereas beating that leads to death is punishable by imprisonment for life.

As for violating public enterprises, the law penalised the offense to imprisonment for one year at least, a fine between EGP 100,000-200,000, or one of the penalties. Likewise, disabling the work of the enterprise is punished similarly.

The law elaborated that if the previous crime was committed as an act of terrorism, it will be punished by life imprisonment.

In an interview with Egypt Watch, Khaled Yosri, an Egyptian lawyer, said that most of the employees overstep their bounds when dealing with lawyers, especially the younger employees. According to the new law, the lawyer’s dignity will be laid out for anyone to walk all over it, especially the attorneys, since they are the parties concerned with all the law’s articles related to the courts, judges, and police, categories well-known for their arrogance and vanity.

Yosri added that this law with its vague articles opens the doors for the legitimisation of bribery and for the employees to take advantage of their positions because there is no mechanism mentioned to monitor the interactions. These articles must be supplemented with obligating the enterprises to set up cameras to record the interactions with the employees.

Lawyers might be attacked for objecting to this law under the claim that we refuse to criminalise assaulting the employees or because we want to take advantage of our profession to push past the limits of politeness, but nothing could be further from the truth. We object to the law because we will not be able to monitor our interactions with them.

Besides, the law nowhere mentioned the daily transgressions and assaults of the policemen that are often followed by detaining the lawyer too in a manner that most clearly reveals injustice, oppression, and prosecution. Add to that the abysmal treatment amounting to insolence that we endure from some of the prosecutors. Furthermore, if the prosecutor was notified that he overstepped his boundaries, the lawyer will be prosecuted to the point of life imprisonment because he will be accused of being a terrorist. Shame on any lawyer who agrees to let that law be passed.