Egypt: Parliament Votes to Extend Emergency Law

The Egyptian Parliament voted to extend state-sanctioned emergency rule for another two years, a state of martial law that has been in place since President Anwar El-Sadat’s assassination in 1981. The decision has garnered international criticism and domestic backlash, as this has been the third renewal of the law since President Hosni Mubarak’s promise to repeal it on the eve of the 2005 election. The law gives exclusive right to the Ministry of the Interior to detain suspects without charge, monitor communications and wiretap contact networks, restrict newspaper content and impede political assembly and demonstration.

Advocates of the law argue that the detention without charge is only permitted in drug-trafficking and terror cases. However, ethics boards and human rights watchdogs have reported on a variety of cases in which emergency law has been invoked in cases involving media and freedom of speech. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch reported on the case of blogger Hany Nazeer, held under emergency law in Egypt since 2008 after posting a controversial link on his blog, Karz El Hob. Human Rights Watch has officially condemned the Egyptian government’s decision to extend use of the law:

“President Mubarak has again breached his promise of five years ago to end emergency rule. The cosmetic changes announced this week don’t change the fact that the state of emergency perpetuates official lawlessness and contempt for basic civil and political rights.”
Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director

Reactions in the blogosphere have had a strongly anti-government sentiment, with many Middle Eastern bloggers frustrated by the stagnation in the country’s politics:

Egyptian blogger Baheyya opposes the law, and believes that the powers claimed by the sitting leadership are inappropriate and unjust. She writes:

“Debating who should rule Egypt cuts across this conventional and no longer salient ideological ordering. All those who advocate parliamentary rule do so out of the bitter experience of being governed by a president with unlimited powers. Naturally they differ about what type of parliamentary system they have in mind, but they agree that

political power in Egypt should no longer be a matter of a few powerholders selecting the one man who will wield unlimited power. Instead, the citizenry should be able to select the few who will rule them (i.e. the few who sit in parliament), and those few should be periodically replaceable.”

Bloggers at TruthOut.Org react with criticism of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime and the intent of the law:

These days, the government increasingly uses the “war on terrorism” to justify its political repression. At the same time, Egypt has successfully promoted its image as one of the “moderate Arab states. Human rights advocates say there is nothing moderate about current-day Egypt. The country has a well-documented history of torture and death in detention and a full panoply of other human rights abuses.

On the day the law was passed, the Socialist Students organization at Cairo University urged students to reject the limits on freedom of assembly that are upheld by the law, writing that:

“Abuses by state and university authorities against academic freedom are not uncommon in Egyptian universities. Both students and professors suffer them.Activists among Egyptian students are routinely subjected to various repressive measures aimed at deterring students from participating in any political activity. In fact students are discouraged from organizing any autonomous activity whatsoever.This year, because Egypt is shortly to hold elections, both protest and repression have escalated around the country, and the universities have been no exception. What is exceptional however, is the blatant participation of academics in positions of authority in these measures aimed at intimidating their students.“

The government is claiming that the Emergency Rules are meant mainly for fighting drugs trafficking, and terrorism. And this made Raafatology wonder if we really suffer that much from drugs trafficking as they claim:

بأه قانون الطوارئ علشان المخدرات يا حكومه ..اللى يسمع كده يفكر ان الشعب كله ماشى بيطوح ولا الحشيش مرمى فى الارض
So the whole Emergency Rule thing is meant for fighting drug trafficking … as if the Egyptian people are all unconscious and high, and drugs are everywhere!

Armaar asks since Egypt is not in a state of war, and does not suffer from any terrorist threats, then why should it have such laws:

لا تعاني البلاد من اي حالة حرب
لا يوجد ارهاب و تشكيلات عصابية باي شكل من الاشكال
اذا ….. لماذا تضعه الحكومة علينا ؟؟
هذا هو السؤال
في وضع قانون الطوارئ يحق للشرطة اعتقال اي شخص بدون سبب
او التعدي على حريته او حتى ايقاف الجلسات البرلمانية
و هذا شئ غير مقبول و تعدي سافر على حقوق الشعب المصري
فأنا من مناصرين الغاء هذا القانون
و اطالب بالغائه كما طالب المصريون بهذا في كل من اعوام 1918 و 1945
لا لقانون الطوارئ
Our country doesn't suffer from a state of war, and we we do not have terrorism or criminal acts.
So, why does the government apply such rules??
This is the question.
Under Emergency rule, police can detain anyone without giving a reason and limit his freedom as well as suspend parliamentary sessions.
I am with those who disagree with such rules, and demand it to be stopped, exactly as in the years 1918 and 1945 when the Egyptians demanded it be stopped.
No for emergency rules.

Also Badawiaa mocks the extension of the Emergency Rule, and the claims of the government that it needs to be applied:

الدستور حدد فى مصر ثلاث حالات توجب استخدام قانون الطوارئ الحرب, الكوارث, الاوبئه وبالتاكيد نحن لسنا بحالة حرب ولا اوبئه ولكننا بكارثه تستدعى العمل بهذا القانون وهو هذا النظام نعم هذا النظام هو كارثه مصر كما اشار وائل عبد الفتاح فى عموده اليوم فهذا النظام لا يقدر ان يستمر الا فى ظل قانون يقدر به ان يقمع ويسجن به معارضيه واصحاب الراى الحر
The Egyptian Constitution states that the Emergency Rule should only be applied in three cases, War, Disasters, and Epidemics. And for sure we are not living in a state of war, nor having any epidemics, but we really have a disaster that makes emergency rules a must. Such disaster, is the existence of the current regime, a catastrophic regime as Wael Abdel Fattah said once in his column. Such regime can never continue to survive without an emergency rule that enables it to put his oppositions and freedom fighters into jail.

Despite restrictions, there has been a wave of demonstration in the past two years—earlier this month, hundreds gathered in protest of minimum wage law, and since 2008, several pro-democracy protests have been quashed in the capital. Observers are waiting to see whether the resurgence of this law in its altered form will influence these growing expressions of dissent.

contributed links and helped translate blog excerpts for this article.

1 comment

  • TareX

    Now that the last truly oppositional Egyptian newspaper has been successfully dismantled (Ibrahim Eissa’s “El-Dostor” paper), the stage is now set for whatever play the government has in mind for the next presidential “elections”.

    Over the past 5 months, freedom of expression moved back to its stone-age status. It’s strange how the government can easily set the tone of the entire country just when it needs to.

    Halifax, NS

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