Republican Decree No. 174 of 2021 declared a state of emergency throughout Egypt for three months, starting from one o’clock in the morning on Sunday, April 25, 2021.
The decision, issued by General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, was published in the Egyptian Official Gazette after midnight (hours after its period’s end). It explained that it “it comes because of the serious security and health conditions that the country is going through.”
The decision ensured that the armed forces and the police authority would take the necessary measures to confront the dangers of terrorism and its financing, maintain security throughout the country, protect public and private property and save lives. This declaration is the thirteenth time Sisi has imposed or extended the state of emergency since April 9, 2017. Four times were in Adly Mansour’s era, however, Sisi was the real governor. Although the Egyptian constitution restricts the extension of the state of emergency to two periods only, the Egyptian regime has renewed it several times.
Observers say that the Egyptian regime used the state of emergency to suppress dissidents and arrest protesters on a large scale. The state of emergency in Egypt has been ongoing since April 2017. It was imposed nine times and extended eight times. The beginning was on April 9, 2017, when Decree No. 157 of 2017 was issued for the first time by Sisi to impose the emergency status after the attacks on the two churches in Tanta and Alexandria. The decision came after a lengthy meeting of the National Defence Council. It was approved by the House of Representatives (Parliament) in its session on April 11th by a majority of the members.
During subsequent years, the state of emergency was regularly extended or redeclared hours after its end. Under the state of emergency, the authorities have the right to monitor newspapers and means of communication and confiscate, expand the powers of the army and police, refer to special (exceptional) courts, evacuate areas, impose curfews, and impose judicial custody, which has sparked human rights criticism.
According to legal expert Muhammad Al-Saeed, the continuous extension of the state of emergency since April 2017 “represents an unprecedented case of underestimating the provisions of the constitution, and circumventing it.” He points out that the extension of the state of emergency represents “a clear violation of the constitutional text, to continue for more than five consecutive years.” He denounces that “the state of emergency coincides with the restrictions on any political movement of all civil political movements, including the legitimate parties, whose members and leaders are arrested and tortured, in addition to bringing civilians to supreme state security trials in accordance with the emergency law, which do not meet the objective conditions and adequate guarantees for a fair trial.”
It also allows “bringing civilians to military trials, as stipulated in the constitution to restrict them to specific acts so that they extend to affect opinion holders.” It also refers to “completely restricting freedom of expression and preventing any opposing opinion from reaching people by preventing the constitutional right to demonstrate, nationalising all media outlets, and closing press websites that the regime considers not loyal to it.” Al-Saeed continues, “The emergency comes with the security institutions taking control of all affairs in and outside the various state institutions, under the pretext of preserving Egyptian national security.”