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.