Press release

(Released jointly with
al-Nadim Center for the Management and Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
PO Box 347, Imbaba-Kit Kat, 12411- Egypt
Tel. & Fax: 202 33 76 186)

February 24, 1997

30 years of Emergency Law: Has it ended the violence?

Yesterday the People's Assembly gave approval to an extension of the state of emergency for three more years.

This decision will mean that Egypt will have been under a state of emergency almost continually for the last thirty years, since 1967, except for 18 months at the beginning of the eighties. The state of emergency will last until May 2000.

Al-Nadim Center and CHRLA express their grief at the Egyptian government's insistence on ruling by the Emergency Law, thereby violating all constitutional guarantees to fundamental rights and freedoms, and furthermore going against its own obligations under Egypt's ratification of the various international human rights instruments.

It is worth noting that the UN Committee against Torture has reiterated several times that the state of emergency in Egypt represents a considerable obstacle to the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

Al-Nadim Center and CHRLA reaffirm that the state of emergency, by continuing to last for almost three decades, represents a blatant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(ICCPR), ratified by Egypt. The ICCPR has laid down rules to allow the declaration of the emergency state - the first clause of Article 4 starts:

"1. In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed..."

The state of emergency also grants the executive branch of the presidency the right to violate at will the rights to freedom and security of the person, through the excessive use of administrative detention orders. This is exacerbated when judicial decisions ordering the release of defendants are simply ignored. The Emergency Law grants the government and its security apparatus the right to tap phones and monitor mail, to censor and/or confiscate newspapers and publications.

The Emergency Law also allows the president to refer certain civilian cases to military courts, violating the right to a fair trial supposedly guaranteed by Article 14 of the ICCPR.

Al-Nadim Center and CHRLA once again underline their belief that the state of emergency goes hand in hand with violence, and that the justifications for it given by the government are neither objective nor convincing. What is sure is that violence has escalated markedly over the past few years, under the state of emergency. It is also a fact that the state of emergency has not prevented assassination and attempts on the lives and properties of government officials, citizens, writers, and tourists.

Most recently, the state of emergency also failed to stop the attack on the church in Minya on Wednesday, February 12, in which 10 people were murdered.

Finally, al-Nadim Center and CHRLA maintain that solutions to the problem of violence and terrorism will never materialize as a result of security measures alone, but through a long chain of comprehensive policies and procedures that will deal with Egypt's political, economic and social problems, that led to the violence and terrorism plaguing the country in the first place. Both centers believe that the first step the government should take is to remove all emergency provisions in the Egyptian legislation, and to strengthen democracy and human rights, which will allow all active organizations in Egypt to take their part in the battle against violence and terrorism.

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