President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi announced, on Tuesday, the cancellation of the extension of the state of emergency, which has been imposed continuously since April 2017, in a crude circumvention of the provisions of the Egyptian Constitution, citing his decision that Egypt has become an “oasis of security and stability in the region.”
Al-Sisi’s decision was met with a stormy wave of praise, as all the print, audio and visual media harnessed their pulpits to celebrate the president’s decision and the wisdom of the president “who took the right decision at the right time,” but no one asked, Do we need a state of emergency? Why has it been cancelled now?
What does emergency mean?
Emergency Law No. 162 of 1958, and its amendments, grants the President of the Republic the right to declare a state of emergency whenever security or public order in the territory of the Republic or in an area of it is endangered, whether due to the outbreak of war or the emergence of a situation threatening its occurrence or the occurrence of internal disturbances or public disasters or An epidemic spread.
The emergency law allows the president to take whatever measures he sees fit to maintain security and public order, which include: Establishing restrictions on the freedom of persons to meet, move, reside and pass in certain places or times, arrest and detain suspects or those who threaten security and public order, and authorize the search of persons and places without being bound by the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
- The order to monitor messages of any kind and to monitor newspapers, bulletins, publications, editorials, drawings and all means of expression, publicity and advertisement before they are published, and to seize, confiscate, disable and close their places of publication.
- Determining the dates for opening and closing public shops, as well as ordering the closure of all or some of these shops.
- Assigning any person to perform any of the works and seizing any movable or real estate, and the provisions stipulated in the Public Mobilization Law with regard to grievance and compensation assessment shall be followed in this regard.
- Evacuating or isolating some areas, organizing means of transportation, and limiting transportation between different areas.
- Prohibiting public meetings, processions, demonstrations, celebrations and other forms of gathering, and restricting private meetings.
- As soon as the state of emergency is declared, a special judicial system is followed, consisting of the Summary State Security Courts (for misdemeanours) and the Supreme State Security Courts (for criminals). This system has special rules, including the following:
- The President of the Republic or his representative may refer to the State Security Courts crimes punishable by public law.
- Its rulings may not be appealed in any way, and these rulings are not final until they are ratified by the President of the Republic.
- The President of the Republic may reduce the sentence imposed, replace it with a lesser sentence, or cancel all or some of the penalties of any kind.
The exception becomes the rule
From the aforementioned provisions of the law, it appears that all these measures stipulated are exceptional, but the reality is that the regime of President Sisi has worked since the military coup in July 2013, to integrate most of these exceptional provisions into existing laws or to issue special laws for them, which made the exception general, It makes Egypt live in a permanent state of emergency without the need to officially declare a state of emergency. By way of example, but not limited to, the emergency law gives the president the power to place restrictions on the freedom of people to meet and organize processions and demonstrations, and this provision became included in the protest law issued in November 2013.
The emergency law allows the president to order the control of censorship of newspapers, bulletins, publications, editors and all means of expression, a provision that has become ineffective after the law regulating the press and media was issued in 2018, which grants the state similar powers without a state of emergency. The Anti-Terrorism Law of 2015 and its amendments grant the president powers parallel to what is stipulated in the emergency law, but the difference is that it is permanent law, to issue a decision to take appropriate measures to maintain security and public order, including evacuating or isolating some areas or curfews. And the first practical implementation of Article 53 was issued in early October, where Sisi issued a decision No. 442 of 2021, granting the Minister of Defense the right to announce a curfew, closing or evacuating headquarters, cutting off communications, or prohibiting movement and other powers and authorities in North Sinai Governorate. This means the practical continuation of the state of emergency in North Sinai without a specific time limit.
The Terrorism Law grants security forces more powers and immunity than stipulated in the notorious emergency law, as it states in Article 8 of it that “those in charge of implementing the provisions of this law shall not be held criminally responsible if they use force to perform their duties, or to protect themselves from an imminent danger that is about to occur.” against themselves, money or other assets when their use of this right is necessary and sufficient to ward off the danger.” The assessment of this danger, of course, rests with the officer responsible for using this force and without any judicial oversight. This dangerous article was the “legal” cover for the extra-legal physical liquidation of hundreds of suspects carried out by the Interior Forces in the past years.
The Terrorist Entities Law and its amendments grant President Sisi’s regime the power to add an opponent to the “terrorist lists.” This classification is followed by a freeze of funds and assets and a travel ban for five renewable years, based on security investigations and not the issuance of a final court ruling, as it is supposed.
Why is the state of emergency cancelled now?
As is clear from the previous presentation, over the past years, the authority has implemented the articles of the exceptional emergency law in several permanent laws, but what about the timing? Why cancel the state of emergency now? Stopping the extension of the state of emergency comes within the framework of the Sisi regime’s plan to improve its image at the international level in the field of human rights, and it has taken a number of these steps during the last period, the latest of which is the issuance of the “National Human Rights Strategy” that pledges to improve “some” aspects of human rights during the five years coming.
The Egyptian emergency law has a bad reputation internationally, and local and international human rights organizations have often called for it to be halted. Therefore, Sisi’s decision now contributes to improving the image of his regime and making it appear that it is truly willing to reform. Likewise, the word “emergency law” causes anxiety and instability and instils fear in the hearts of investors, at a time when the Sisi regime is seeking to attract new investments to Egypt in light of the global and local economic crisis, and therefore the abolition of the emergency law will contribute to drawing a stable image of Egypt, even Although this picture is fake.