State watchdog urges government to end emergency

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CAIRO: The state-backed National Council for Human Rights called on authorities on Tuesday to end a 27-year-old state emergency at the end of this month, saying there was no longer any basis for its renewal.

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 National Council of Human Rights, headed by Boutros Boutros Ghali who served as his country s top diplomat before becoming UN chief in the 1990s.

The watchdog noted that the state of emergency, first adopted after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat in 1981 and renewed almost continuously since, is due to expire at the end of this month.

Egyptian security forces faced a serious insurgency by Islamist militant groups in the 1990s which they cited as justification for continuing the state of emergency. That rebellion has since sharply receded.

The state of emergency should not be renewed in accordance with the undertakings given by the president [Hosni Mubarak] and his government, the watchdog added.

Earlier this month, two dozen independent human rights watchdogs called for the emergency to be ended, saying it flies in the face of the comprehensive social, economic and political reforms underway in Egypt.

We call on President Mubarak to keep the promise he made during the (2005) presidential election campaign and abolish the state of emergency, the watchdogs said.

Last year, Judicial Affairs Minister Mufid Shehab El Din vowed that the state of emergency would be abolished during 2008 even if anti-terror legislation proposed to replace it has not been approved by parliament.

The state-backed human rights watchdog called on the government to unveil the promised anti-terror bill as quickly as possible.

Independent watchdogs and the opposition have voiced fears that the government will use the proposed new legislation as cover to get round normal human rights safeguards. -AFP

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