Egypt state of emergency ends for first time in 30 years

Ahram Online, Thursday 31 May 2012

Mubarak-era state of emergency lifted after three decades; Egypt's ruling military council will continue to secure country until hand over of power to civilian ruler

emergency law
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament protest against the extension of emergency law, in place since 1981, during a parliament session in Cairo, Tuesday. According to local media, the government of Egypt has presented to the parliament a bill to extend the country's emergency law until the year 2012. The words on the banners read "No to emergency law". (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced Thursday afternoon the lifting of the longstanding state of emergency, adding that the military will continue to secure the country until the 30 June transfer of power following the upcoming presidential elections runoff.

Egypt has been under a state of emergency since 1981, following the assassination of president Anwar El-Sadat.

Earlier today, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Parliament to put an end to this "abusive chapter" in Egypt's history as the law is set to expire on 31 May 2012.

The statement added that Parliament should also pass legislation insuring that all exceptional measures of the law are suspended. HRW further recommended that the Ministry of Interior release all 188 detainees still being held in Egyptian prisons under Emergency Law provisions and to transfer all trials under the mandate of the Emergency State Security Court (ESSC) to regular civilian courts.

“The Egyptian parliament should make sure that this state of emergency, a hallmark of Hosni Mubarak’s abusive police state, has no future,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Parliament should also initiate a comprehensive investigation into human rights violations that flourished under the Emergency Law, and the public prosecutor should make sure that the key people responsible for systematic torture and enforced disappearance are prosecuted.”

Egypt has been under Emergency Law since 1981 – a cause of much tension between Mubarak’s regime and the country's political forces. Calls for an end to the repressive law became a main demand of the January 25 Revolution.

In September 2011, the military junta amended certain articles of the law, and, following clashes outside Israel's Cairo embassy the following month, added new articles to it.

In January, SCAF head Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi declared in a televised address that application of the emergency law would be limited to acts of thuggery and drug-related crimes. Then, on 17 May 2012, Egypt’s first post-Mubarak Parliament called for an ending of the law by 31 May with no possibility of further extensions.

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