EGYPT EXTENDS STATE OF EMERGENCY BY TWO YEARS
|President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak has the power to grant a pardon or commute a sentence
May 26, 2008: Egypt extended a controversial decades-old state of emergency by two years despite pledges to replace it by
new legislation, in a move slammed by rights groups as anti-constitutional.
"Parliament has accepted during its afternoon session today the decision by the president of the
republic to extend the state of emergency for two years starting from June 1, or until a new terror law is drafted, whichever comes first," the state
news agency MENA said.
The state of emergency was first imposed in 1981 after the assassination by Islamists of president Anwar Sadat and has been repeatedly
renewed since then despite protests from rights groups and regime opponents.
Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif pledged to "only use the law in the fight against terrorism... and to protect the security of the nation and
its citizens," MENA reported.
"The government... has only used the articles of the law strictly for the goals intended, namely the fight against terrorism,"
Nazif told parliament.
Last year, Judicial and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab said the state of emergency would end in 2008, even if the new
anti-terror law meant to replace it was not ready.
"The state of emergency has for decades been one of the main causes of human rights violations in Egypt," Hafez Abu Sada of the
Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR) told AFP.
"This is anti-constitutional. The state of emergency is by definition put in place when the country is going though a period of danger
such as a war or a natural disaster, which is not the case" in present-day Egypt, he said.
On May 20, the state-backed National Council of Human Rights said there was no longer any basis for renewing the state of emergency.
"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 watchdog headed by Boutros Boutros-Ghali who was his country's foreign minister before becoming UN secretary general in the 1990s.
The EOHR's Abu Sada said that awaiting anti-terrorism legislation was "a way of fooling people. There's already an
anti-terrorism law from 1992 which can go as far as the death penalty. A new law will not stop violence or terrorismâ€ť. (Sources: Afp, 26/05/2008)