Emergency law in Egypt

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Emergency law in Egypt was first enacted in 1958, as Law No. 162 of 1958[1] and had remained in effect since 1967, except for an 18-month break in 1980/81. The emergency was imposed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and reimposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.[2] The state of emergency expired on 31 May 2012, two weeks before the second round of voting in Egypt's first presidential election after Hosni Mubarak was deposed by the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Details of the law[edit]

During the time that the law was enforced, police powers were extended, constitutional rights were suspended, and heavy censorship was enforced.[3] The law prohibited all non-governmental political activity, street demonstrations and non-approved political organizations, and unregistered financial donations were formally banned. Some 17,000 people were detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners were as high as 30,000.[4][5]

Under this state of emergency, the government was granted the right to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason, thus keeping them in prisons without trials for any period. The government justified this by claiming that opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood could come into power in Egypt if the then-current government did not forgo parliamentary elections, confiscate the groups' main financiers' possessions, and detain group figureheads, actions which would be virtually impossible without imposing emergency law and preventing the judicial system's independence.[6] Pro-democracy advocates in Egypt argued that this went against the principles of democracy, which include a citizen's right to a fair trial and their right to vote for whichever candidate and/or party they deem fit to run their country.


The Emergency Law has been continuously extended every three years since 1981. In 2006, President Hosni Mubarak promised reforms including repealing the emergency law, replacing it with other measures. However, he then renewed the Emergency Law.[2]

During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, a key demand by the protestors was to end the emergency law. While then President Hosni Mubarak indicated he would repeal the emergency law, this was considered unsatisfactory and protests continued. After Mubarak's resignation on 11 February 2011, the military claimed they would remove the law when the streets finally clear of protesters.

However, in September 2011 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) decided to amend a number of articles and add new ones to the emergency law, following the 2011 Cairo Israeli embassy attack.[7]

On 24 January 2012, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi gave a televised speech in which he announced that the state of emergency would be partially lifted the following day.[8]

The state of emergency, and with it the emergency law, expired 31 May 2012.[9] On 14 August 2013, the acting president of Egypt, Adly Mansour, after the Council of Minsters' approval, declared the state of emergency for one month. The decision followed acts of sabotage that resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.[10]


  1. ^ Law 1958/161 (Emergency Law) (Arabic) at EMERglobal Lex, part of the Edinburgh Middle East Report. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  2. ^ a b Williams, Daniel (2006-04-30). "Egypt Extends 25-Year-Old Emergency Law". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-29. 
  3. ^ Kassem, May (1999). In the guise of democracy: governance in contemporary Egypt. Garnet & Ithaca Press. pp. 57–58. 
  4. ^ "Enough is still enough". Al-Ahram Weekly. 8 September 2005. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  5. ^ R. Clemente Holder (1994-08). "Egyptian Lawyer's Death Triggers Cairo Protests". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 2011-01-26.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. ^ Caraley, Demetrios (April 2004). American hegemony: preventive war, Iraq, and imposing democracy. Academy of Political Science. ISBN 1-884853-04-8. 
  7. ^ "Legal experts say amending, extending emergency law illegal". Daily News Egypt. 12 September 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-22. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  8. ^ "Egypt's ruling generals to partially lift emergency law". BBC. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  9. ^ CNN Wire Staff (31 May 2012). "Egypt lifts unpopular emergency law". CNN. Retrieved 17 January 2014. 
  10. ^ "Egypt declares state of emergency". Al Jazeera English. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.