File photo: Protestor against Emergency law in the wake of Egypt's revolution (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
In response to a recent wave of deadly clashes throughout the country, President Mohamed Morsi imposed a 30-day state of emergency – including daily curfews – in the canal cities of Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. Egypt's new constitution, however, requires that the Shura Council (the upper house of Egypt's parliament) approve the move within seven days of its application.
According to Article 148 of the newly-approved charter, the president of the republic can only declare a state of emergency after consulting with Egypt's cabinet. The declaration should then be submitted to the lower house of parliament within seven days.
In the event that there is no sitting lower house, as is the case in Egypt now, the proclamation should be referreed to the Shura Council for approval.
In all cases, the state of emergency should only be applied for a limited period which may not exceed six months. It can only be extended further through a popular referendum.
The new state of emergency in the canal cities went into effect as of Monday.
Since Friday, ongoing clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 50 people killed and hundreds injured throughout the country.
A number of rights organisations have condemned Morsi's decision to apply the state of emergency.
"Morsi' speech failed to present an exit plan out of this bloody situation and the imposition of an emergency law might lead to some actions and decisions that abort personal freedoms," according to a Monday press statement issued by local rights groups including the International Justice Centre, the Modern Woman Association and the Support Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
In response to the curfews imposed in the cities – from 9pm to 6am daily – activists have called for daily marches to begin at 8pm. On Sunday night, large number of protesters stayed out late in the cities' streets.
Under the state of emergency, police have the right to detain individuals without charge. An emergency law was often used against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists during the Mubarak era.
Under Mubarak, Egypt's emergency law was repeatedly extended every three years throughout the course of his 30-year rule. Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces finally lifted the emergency law on 31 May 2012.
Lifting the emergency law had been a main demand of Egypt's January 25 Revolution.