Egypt's cabinet approved on Monday a nationwide three-month state of emergency, which President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared hours after two deadly suicide bombings hit St. George Cathedral in Tanta and St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria, killing 45 and injuring dozens more in the deadliest attack against civilians in Egypt's recent memory.
According to the Egyptian constitution, any state of emergency must be upheld by parliament by majority vote within seven days of its declaration by the president. The Egyptian House of Representatives is set to vote on the state of emergency on Tuesday.
This is the second state of emergency imposed nationwide in Egypt in the last four years.
In 2013, Egypt's interim president Adly Mansour declared a one-month state of emergency following a wave of violence in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
The state of emergency grants authorities expanded powers including trying civilians in special courts, restricting or regulating movement in public places, and more authority to regulate media outlets.
Law 162, which regulates the powers of the state under emergency, allows for the trial of civilians before “special” courts, including the “Emergency High State Security Court,” upon orders by the president, who has the right to appoint army officers in the judicial panel of these courts.
According to Article 9 of the law, the president has the right to refer defendants in criminal cases to these special courts for any crime.
According to Article 12 of the law, the verdicts of these courts are not subject to appeal as they are in regular courts, with only the president maintaining the right to overturn verdicts, order a retrial or reduce sentences.
The sentences of these courts are put into effect after approval by the president.
The state of emergency law gives authorities the right to shut down or set operating hours for commercial shops.
Authorities are also granted the right to evacuate or cordon certain areas, as well as specify or restrict means of transportation.
Authorities are also empowered to withdraw licences for weapons, ammunition, flammable material and fireworks.
The law grants the state the right to assume guardianship of private companies and properties per an order by the president.
Article 4 of the law grants broader authority to the country’s Armed Forces, including jurisdictional authorities usually reserved for law enforcement bodies.
The law also gives the state the right to impose curfews, though no such plan has been announced by authorities for this most recent state of emergency.
The state of emergency grants the president the right to oversee all means of communication, expression, and advertising prior to publication, as well as the power to confiscate and shut down print houses.
During a late night address to the nation on Sunday, El-Sisi urged all media outlets to be "credible, responsible and aware" when covering news and images related to terrorist incidents, and not to “hurt the feelings” of the victims by broadcasting images of their deceased relatives “all day long.”
The state of emergency in Egypt
States of emergency have historically been implemented in countries around the world to preserve the security and stability of nations during times of danger, such as during wars, natural disasters or other unusual circumstances.
An ongoing state of emergency has been in effect in designated areas in North Sinai since 2013, as the army battles a militant insurgency in the area. The state of emergency has been continually renewed at three-month intervals since 2013.
The state of emergency announced on Sunday will be implemented nationwide in accordance with Law No. 162 of 1958.
The 2014 constitution says that a state of emergency is to be imposed under the following conditions:
- The President must consult with the cabinet before imposing the state of emergency.
- Parliament must approve the state of emergency by majority vote.
- The state of emergency shall be declared for a specified period not exceeding three months.
- Parliament must approve by majority vote the renewal of the state of the emergency.
The country’s first state of emergency was implemented in 1914 by a British mandate in all territories of the Egyptian sultanate during the World War I.
After the 1952 revolution and the establishing of the republic in 1953, the state of emergency was imposed in1956 during the tripartite aggression against Egypt, and was lifted in 1964.
A state of emergency was again declared in 1967 during the Arab-Israeli war, and continued until 1980.
Following the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981, the state of emergency was imposed again and extended every three years during the entire 30-year rule of his successor Hosni Mubarak.
Following the uprising that toppled Mubarak in February 2011 – with the continued state of emergency being one of the protestors’ grievances – the state of emergency was lifted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in May 2012, ending the longest state of emergency in the country's history.