The Egyptian General Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi issued a decision declaring a state of emergency throughout the country for a period of three new months, starting from one in the morning on Tuesday, until one in the morning on July 28. This is the 12th consecutive time that al-Sisi has declared a state of emergency since April 2017.
This time, al-Sisi justified the declaration of the state of emergency under the pretext of “the serious health and security conditions the country is going through,” referring to coronavirus. The declaration of a state of emergency means, in practice, freezing the law and the constitution. This gives the Egyptian authorities, especially the security forces, wide powers to make many decisions. Observers say that the declaration of the state of emergency caused numerous human rights violations in Egypt, and it was a cover for many human rights crimes.
The new resolution stipulated that “the armed forces and the police force shall take the necessary steps to confront the dangers of terrorism, its financing, maintaining security throughout the country, protecting public and private property, preserving the lives of citizens, and authorising the prime minister in the competencies of the President of the Republic stipulated in the emergency law.” The decision also stressed that “anyone who violates orders issued by the President of the Republic in implementation of the provisions of the law shall be punished with imprisonment.”
The official newspaper of Egypt also published a decision by the Prime Minister, Moustafa Madbouly, on the curfew in North Sinai Governorate and regarding referring some of the crimes resulting from declaring a state of emergency to the “State Security Emergency” courts. State security courts are exceptional courts. Their decisions cannot be appealed and they were formed based on the state of emergency. The Egyptian authorities have begun referring mainly political cases to these courts.
Although the 2013 Egyptian constitution stipulates that the state of emergency should not be declared more than twice (nationwide, six months maximum), the state of emergency has continued in Egypt since April 2017. A state of emergency was initially declared following the bombings that targeted a number of churches in Egypt, which coincided with Christian holidays. Opponents accuse al-Sisi of declaring the state of emergency not to fight terrorism, but rather to suppress political opponents, as al-Sisi’s regime has consistently stigmatised all of its opponents with terrorism.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defrauded the constitutional text by letting one day pass after the state of emergency ended and then announcing the extension, in order for the decision to impose the state of emergency again to be considered a new declaration. The decision to continue the state of emergency coincides with Egypt facing the coronavirus pandemic, which has had catastrophic repercussions on its economic situation, which prompted the prime minister to announce that Egypt was in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to obtain a new loan worth $4 billion.
According to official figures, the country’s net foreign reserves fell from $45.51 billion to $40.1 billion during March. The decision to declare the new state of emergency cited the health conditions facing Egypt, but opponents fear that the coronavirus, like the April 2017 bombings, is just a cover and an excuse that the al-Sisi regime is using to further suppress dissidents.