Egypt to lift 25-year-old emergency laws

Daily Star Egypt Staff
4 Min Read

CAIRO: Egypt plans to lift 25-year-old emergency laws granting security forces sweeping powers of arrest and detention that critics have long claimed are used against opponents of the government. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif announced the move in a speech to parliament late Wednesday, saying the laws would be replaced by new anti-terror legislation in Egypt, which has witnesses a string of deadly attacks in recent years. Nazif said he had ordered the formation of a committee of experts to draft the new law, without saying when he expected it to come into force. The committee is expected to draw on laws passed by countries such as the United States and Britain and existing international conventions and treaties, he said. Parliament has renewed the emergency laws every three years since they were imposed after the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Al-Sadat, ignoring opposition demands and calls from local and international human rights groups that they be repealed. The legislation was last extended in 2003 and is due to expire at the end of May. The laws allow the government to detain anyone deemed to be threatening state security for renewable 45-day periods without court orders and also give military courts the power to try civilians. Public demonstrations are banned under the legislation, which opponents also see as an attempt by the state to stifle basic freedoms, including freedom of association. Opposition parties and the pro-reform movement Kefaya (Enough) have already launched a campaign calling on parliament not to extend the laws when the government refers them to the assembly. The government, led by the ruling National Democratic Party of President Hosni Mubarak, says it has invoked the laws only in specific cases such as its fight against suspected Islamist militants. Islamist militants launched a bloody campaign in 1992 against Mubarak s government that culminated in 1997 with an attack in Luxor that left some 58 foreign tourists dead. The government rounded up thousands of suspects in its effort to crush the militants, heavy handed methods that led to the elimination of groups such as Jamaa Islamiya and Jihad as a threat to the government. On April 7, 2005 two French tourists and an American were killed and 20 other people wounded in a bomb attack in the Al-Azhar area of the Egyptian capital. Seven people were wounded in an attack later the same month in Cairo s Abdel Moneim Riad Square, and two women assailants were killed in a failed attack on a tourist bus. In July, multiple suicide car bombings rocked the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing some 70 people in Egypt s worst ever such attack And in October 2004, near simultaneous bombings killed at least 34 people, most of them Israeli tourists, in Red Sea coast resorts, including Taba on the Israeli border, instigating fears of a resurgence of Islamist militants. AFP

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