Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Egyptian government extends state of emergency law for two more years

The Egyptian parliament on Monday extended its controversial 27-year-old state of emergency by two years, in a move condemned by rights groups and the political opposition, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported the same day.

The law was passed after a brief debate following a decision by President Hosni Mubarak to extend the state of emergency, originally imposed in 1981 after the assassination of then President Anwar Sadat – Mubarak’s predecessor.

The decision has been met with such vocal and impassioned criticism in part because in 2005, during his re-election campaign, Mubarak promised the state of emergency would soon end. Additionally, Judicial and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab said last year the state of emergency would end in 2008.

Since its inception, Egypt’s authorities have used the state of emergency to clamp down on political opponents such as the banned Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We reject the extension of the state of emergency because there is no constitutional justification,” Brotherhood political bureau member Essam al-Aryan told AFP. “We have been living under a state of emergency ever since Mubarak came to power. It’s been a part of our daily life since the assassination of Sadat despite the fact it’s an emergency law.”

He said the Brotherhood would begin a public awareness campaign about the law.

Secular organizations have also denounced the extension. “The sate of emergency has for decades been one of the main causes of human rights violations in Egypt,” Hafez Abu Sada of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights told reporters. “The state of emergency is by definition put in place when the country is going through a period of danger such as war or a natural disaster, which is not the case now.”

The government-supported National Council of Human Rights also declared there was no basis for renewing the controversial law. “Nothing any longer justifies the extension of the state of emergency, all the more so as Egypt is experiencing a period of stability,” said the organization, which is headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali.

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