Friday,21 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)
Friday,21 September, 2018
Issue 1165, (19 - 25 September 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Testing the limits

The decision to extend the state of emergency for two months stirs mixed reactions from political forces, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Thursday interim President Adli Mansour issued a presidential order extending the one month-long state of emergency imposed on 14 August for two more months. An increase in violence and the incidence of terrorist acts — the last of which was the failed assassination attempt on Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim — was cited as the main reason behind the extension.

Presidential spokesman Ihab Badawi said the decision was taken with the approval of Hazem Al-Beblawi’s cabinet after reviewing the security situation in Egypt.

The measure, said the presidency, was in response to “assaults on public and private property as well as killings by extremist groups”. Such arguments, however, failed to convince the Nour, Watan and Strong Egypt parties.

Nour Party Chairman Younis Makhioun issued a statement on Friday arguing that current laws are “adequate to cope with incidents of violence and hold accountable those who perpetrate them”. Makhioun underlined that his party does not believe “that the exceptional law will end the violence”, adding that the only way to stop violence is by working towards “freedom, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the realisation of the principles of justice and equality between Egyptians”.

Makhioun expressed concern that the extension of the state of emergency “sends a negative message about Egypt” to the world, adding that his party rejects violence and is “keen to establish security under ordinary laws”.

The Watan said the extension amounted to the “reproduction of a police state”. In a statement issued on Friday the party called for national reconciliation efforts between political forces to “preserve the gains of the 25 January Revolution”.

Former presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fottouh’s Strong Egypt Party rejected the extension of the state of emergency, arguing that it leads Egypt back to a point prior to 24 January 2011. The party accused the “incapable” interim government of lacking any vision or a concrete policy for its citizens.

“Egyptians cannot be fooled by hollow slogans that do not feed hungry mouths amid security chaos, inflation, the disruption of livelihoods, rising unemployment and the continuation of corruption,” the party said in a statement.

The party argued the state of emergency would have minimal impact on improving security which was best done by “upholding the rule of law” and returning to a civil democratic path that does not undermine citizens’ freedoms.

Khaled Al-Masri, head of the 6 April Movement’s media bureau, pointed out that “the imposition of the state of emergency for decades failed to either prevent terrorism or promote security.”

Abolishing the emergency law, in place throughout the 30-year rule of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, was among the key demands of the January 2011 Revolution. It was lifted only after Mubarak’s ouster by the then ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

“The movement believes the penal code is enough to achieve security and bring criminals to justice,” said Al-Masri.

A coalition of political movements staged a protest on Monday in Talaat Harb Square against the extension of the state of emergency. Participants included 6 April Movement, the Revolutionary Socialists, Try Them and the Egypt without Detainees campaigns. The protest also denounced the random arrests of civilians and their referral to military courts.

Human rights activist Malek Adli, a lawyer at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, believes that criminal law remains sufficient to ensure security. “Emergency law arrests are usually political arrests,” he says.

The extension of the state of emergency, which grants the police wide powers of detention, had been expected. According to the Front to Defend Protesters the number of arrests since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi has surged, with at least 3,059 detained in Cairo alone.

The emergency law was first passed in the 1958 under Gamal Abdel-Nasser. It was suspended for 18 months by former president Anwar Al-Sadat and reinstated by Mubarak in 1981. After being cancelled by SCAF in 2011 the state of emergency was reimposed on 14 August as clashes followed the bloody dispersal of two sit-ins of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi. Hundreds were killed in the ensuing violence.

In a televised interview on 3 September Mansour said that he did not anticipate extending the state of emergency if security conditions improved. The extension came, however, days after the Egyptian military launched a major offensive in northern Sinai where troops backed by helicopters raiding suspected extremist hideouts in a dozen villages.

“Poor security conditions in Sinai and the targeting of state officials have made the extension of emergency measures necessary,” says Nabil Atrees, member of the political bureau of the Tagammu Party.

Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies analyst Emad Gad believes that no Egyptian concerned with the country’s stability and security can object to the continuation of the emergency law for an extra two months.

“It will be applied only to those who violate the law and seek to foment chaos in the streets. There will not be another extension of the emergency law, since to do that will take a popular referendum,” insists Gad.

Article 27 of the 8 July constitutional declaration stipulates that after three months any state of emergency must be put to a plebiscite.

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