Wednesday, May 12, 2010

State of Emergency extended in Egypt for two more years

With one brief hiatus, a State of Emergency has been in effect in Egypt for almost three decades, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. Under the State of Emergency, opposition figures may be routinely arrested and subjected to security courts where justice is summary, and there is no right of appeal or meaningful legal representation. The State of Emergency is arbitrarily used to repress, intimidate and lock up regime opponents.

Since the Palestine elections won by Hamas in 2006, the U.S. has been largely quiet about the basic rights in Egypt. When demarches have been delivered, it has been without fanfare or effect. Thus, it is commendable that the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spoken out quite clearly about the need for the State of Emergency to end. Her statement will annoy Mubarak and Company especially because it comes as the preparations for the 2011 Presidential "election" are underway. While it is doubtful that the regime will assent to an end of its State of Emergency ("within the coming months"), the Clinton statement will lend some needed encouragement to the opposition.

May 11, 2010

Today, the Government of Egypt announced that it is extending the State of Emergency for an additional two years. This extension is regrettable given the pledge made by the government to the Egyptian people in 2005. A broad range of Egyptian voices, including Egypt’s National Council on Human Rights, have called for the elimination of the State of Emergency.

Egyptian Government also announced today that it would restrict the use of the Emergency Authority to certain categories of cases, and pledged once again to work to pass counterterrorism legislation and lift the State of Emergency. Any move to significantly narrow the application of the Emergency Law would be a step forward if it means greater protection of civil liberties for Egyptian citizens in practice. We are confident that Egypt can draft and adopt effective counterterrorism legislation that conforms to international standards for civil liberties and due process. And the United States urges Egypt to complete this legislation on an urgent basis and to rescind the State of Emergency within the coming months.

The United States understands the challenges that terrorism poses to free societies and we believe that effective counterterrorism measures can be based on legal principles that protect the rights of all citizens.

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