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Amnesty slams Egypt parliament vote to extend Sisi rule

531 deputies voted for the amendments and 22 against [AFP]

Date of publication: 16 April, 2019

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The amendments included other sweeping changes to the constitution including to give the military greater influence in political life as well as granting Sisi more control over the judiciary.
Egypt parliament's approval of constitutional amendments that will allow general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to stay in power until 2030 demonstrates a "complete disregard for human rights", Rights group Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The amendments, which were voted for on Tuesday, included other sweeping changes to the constitution including to give the military greater influence in political life as well as granting Sisi more control over the judiciary.

The amendments are to be put to a public referendum whose date is to be announced on Wednesday. 

"The decision to put these amendments to the constitution to a public referendum, amid the worst crackdown on freedom of expression and severe restrictions on political parties and independent media, demonstrates the Egyptian government’s contempt for the rights of all people in Egypt," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"These amendments aim to expand military trials for civilians, undermine the independence of the judiciary, and strengthen impunity for human rights violations by members of the security forces, furthering the climate of repression that already exists in the country," Mughrabi said.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal said 531 deputies voted for the amendments and 22 against, according to Al-Ahram news site.

"Instead of upholding Egypt's human rights obligations, parliamentarians have instead chosen to approve amendments that will facilitate the authorities' crackdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly, erode people's rights, and exacerbate the human rights crisis in the country," Mughrabi added.

Ahead of Tuesday's vote, Human Rights Watch said the amendments would "institutionalise authoritarianism".

When Sisi visited Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump last week, HRW urged Congress to withhold endorsement of his bid to extend his rule.

"Congress needs to use its levers to pressure the Egyptian president to reverse course, starting with withdrawing these constitutional amendments set to consolidate authoritarian rule," said HRW's Michael Page.

Other constitutional amendments include a quota for women's representation of no less than 25 percent in parliament and forming a second parliamentary chamber.

Sisi led the army's overthrow of elected president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 following mass protests against the Islamist leader's rule.

He won his first term as president in 2014 and was re-elected in March 2018 with more than 97 percent of the vote, after standing virtually unopposed.

His government has been widely criticised by human rights groups for the repression of political opponents.

Tuesday's vote comes after veteran presidents were ousted both in Algeria and Sudan and amid an escalation of the conflict in Libya.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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