Emergency law in Egypt

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The emergency law in Egypt (Law No. 162/1958) details the framework governing the declaration of a state of emergency in Egypt. Under the emergency law, the government is granted extended powers and a special court is established to overview crimes subject to its jurisdiction.[1][2]


During a state of emergency, police powers are extended, constitutional rights are suspended, censorship is legalised and habeas corpus is abolished.[3][4] It limits non-governmental political activity, including street demonstrations, unapproved political organizations and unregistered financial donations.[5] It permits indefinite detention without trial and hearings of civilians by military courts, prohibits gatherings of more than five people, and limits speech and association.[6] The government is empowered to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason.[7]

Pro-democracy advocates in Egypt argued that the long-running states of emergency in Egypt go against the principles of democracy, which include a citizen's right to a fair trial and their right to vote.


A state of emergency was first declared by Gamal Abdel Nasser during the 1956 Suez Crisis, before being lifted in 1964.[8]

Following its drafting, the 1958 emergency law was enacted in 1967 during the Six-Day War, remaining in force until it was lifted by President Anwar Sadat on 15 May 1980.[5][8]

After a break of 18 months, a new state of emergency was imposed following the assassination of Sadat in 1981, and was repeatedly extended every three years.[6][9][8] The legislation was extended in 2003 and was due to expire on 31 May 2006. In 2006, the Emergency Law was extended by two years though then-president Hosni Mubarak had previously promised reforms including the repeal of the law to replace it with other measures, such as specific anti-terrorism legislation.[6] The extension was justified by the Dahab bombings in April of that year.[10][11] In May 2008 there was a further extension to June 2010,[12] and again two years later to 2012, albeit with the government saying that it would be applied only to "terrorism and drug trafficking" suspects.[13]

The administration of Hosni Mubarak had cited the threat of terrorism in extending the state of emergency,[9] 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.[7] This has led to the imprisonment of activists without trial,[14] illegal, undocumented and hidden detention facilities[15] and the rejection of university, mosque and newspaper staff based on their political affiliation.[16] The December 2010 parliamentary election was preceded by a media crackdown, arrests, candidate bans (particularly of Muslim Brotherhood candidates) and allegations of fraud due to the near-unanimous victory by the NDP in parliament.[5] Human-rights organizations estimate that in 2010, between 5,000 and 10,000 people were in long-term detention without charge or trial.[17][18] Some 17,000 people were detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners were as high as 30,000.[19][20]

During the 2011 Egyptian revolution, key demands by protesters included an end to the state of emergency. While Mubarak indicated he would repeal the emergency law, this was considered unsatisfactory and protests continued. After Mubarak resigned on 11 February 2011, power passed to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) which stated that the law would be repealed when the streets finally clear of protesters. Instead, in September 2011, the SCAF amended a number of articles and added new ones to the emergency law, following the 2011 Cairo Israeli embassy attack.[21]

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.[22] After over thirty years in force, the state of emergency expired on 31 May 2012, two weeks before the second round of voting in Egypt's 2012 presidential election.[23][24][25]

On 13 June 2012, the SCAF imposed de facto martial law (extending the arrest powers of security forces). The Justice Ministry issued a decree giving military officers authority to arrest civilians and try them in military courts.[26][27][28][29] The provision remained in effect until a new constitution was introduced, and meant that those detained could remain in jail for that long, according to state-run Egy News.[30]

On 14 August 2013, acting president Adly Mansour declared a month-long state of emergency following the Council of Ministers' approval and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. The decision followed violent clashes during Rabaa and Nahda sit-in dispersals between supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and the security forces.[31][32] After a two-month extension, the state of emergency then ended in November 2013.[33]

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi declared a local state of emergency in North Sinai Governorate in 2014, where the Egyptian Armed Forces continued to battle an ongoing jihadist insurgency.[34][35]

A nationwide state of emergency was reinstated following the Palm Sunday church bombings on 9 April 2017.[36][37] The 2014 Constitution included provisions limiting the duration of a state of emergency to three months, renewable once on ratification by a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives. The government circumnavigated this limit by having a new three-month emergency period approved by a rubber stamp parliament immediately after the preceding one was due to expire.[38][2]

The 1958 emergency law was amended on request of the government in April 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[2]

The 2017 state of emergency expired in October 2021 after President Sisi announced that it would be lifted.[39] The most recent extension beforehand occurred in July 2021.[40] However, trials under the supervision of the Emergency State Security Court, including that of Alaa Abd El-Fattah, continued beyond the end of the state of emergency.[41][42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Law 162 of 1958 Emergency Law" (PDF) (in Arabic). Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b c Ellaboudy, Ahmed (19 May 2020). "Emergency Law Amendments to Fight Covid-19 in Egypt: Putting the Poison in the Honey". Verfassungsblog. doi:10.17176/20200519-133749-0. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  3. ^ Kassem, May (1999). In the guise of democracy: governance in contemporary Egypt. Garnet & Ithaca Press. pp. 57–58.
  4. ^ Shehata, Samer (26 March 2004). "Egypt After 9/11: Perceptions of the United States". Contemporary Conflicts. Archived from the original on 15 July 2006. Retrieved 30 January 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "Law 1958/162 (Emergency Law)". Edinburgh Middle East Report. Retrieved 2 April 2010.(registration required)
  6. ^ a b c Williams, Daniel (30 April 2006). "Egypt Extends 25-Year-Old Emergency Law". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  7. ^ a b Caraley, Demetrios (April 2004). American Hegemony: Preventive War, Iraq, and Imposing Democracy. Academy of Political Science. ISBN 1-884853-04-8.
  8. ^ a b c Mohy El Deen, Sherif (10 August 2017). "Egypt's Unexceptional State of Emergency". Arab Reform Initiative. Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  9. ^ a b Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (28 May 2008). "Egypt and The Impact of 27 years of Emergency on Human Rights". Archived from the original on 29 January 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2011.
  10. ^ Simon Apiku. Egypt to lift 25-year-old emergency laws. Middle East On-line, 23 March 2006."Middle East Online". Archived from the original on 24 August 2006. Retrieved 16 April 2006.
  11. ^ Joelle Bassoul. Egypt renews state of emergency for two years. Middle East On-line, 1 May 2005. [1] Archived 2015-02-18 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani. EGYPT: Despair Over Two More Years of Martial Law.Inter Press Service News Agency. "EGYPT: Despair over Two More Years of Martial Law". Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2009.
  13. ^ Slackman, Michael (12 May 2010). "Egyptian Emergency Law Is Extended for 2 Years". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  14. ^ Choney, Suzanne (27 January 2011). "Egyptian bloggers brave police intimidation". NBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  15. ^ Mayer, Jane (30 October 2006). "The C.I.A.'s Travel Agent". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 29 December 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  16. ^ Shenker, Jack (22 November 2010). "Egyptian Elections: Independents Fight for Hearts and Minds in 'Fixed Ballot'". The Guardian. UK. Archived from the original on 28 January 2011. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Egypt: Keep Promise to Free Detainees by End of June: Joint Statement" (Press release). Amnesty International. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  18. ^ Holder, R. Clemente (July–August 1994). "Egyptian Lawyer's Death Triggers Cairo Protests". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  19. ^ "Enough is still enough". Al-Ahram Weekly. 8 September 2005. Archived from the original on 19 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  20. ^ R. Clemente Holder (August 1994). "Egyptian Lawyer's Death Triggers Cairo Protests". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
  21. ^ "Legal experts say amending, extending emergency law illegal". Daily News Egypt. 12 September 2011. Archived from the original on 22 November 2011. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Egypt's ruling generals to partially lift emergency law". BBC. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  23. ^ Othman, Dalia (31 May 2012). "State of emergency ends, military council says will not renew". Egypt Independent. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  24. ^ "Egypt lifts unpopular emergency law". CNN. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  25. ^ "Egypt state of emergency lifted after 31 years". BBC News. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  26. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (14 June 2012). "Egypt Reimposes Martial Law, Ahead of Closely Watched Ruling". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  27. ^ "Egypt decree grants arrest powers to military". Al Jazeera. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  28. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (18 June 2012). "Egypt's Ruling Generals Soften Tone as Islamist Wins Presidency". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  29. ^ Londoño, Ernesto (13 June 2012). "Egypt's military given power to detain civilians days before presidential vote". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  30. ^ "Some cry 'coup' as Egypt's highest court annuls parliament, military extends power". Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Josh Levs. CNN. 14 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  31. ^ "Egypt declares state of emergency". Al Jazeera English. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  32. ^ "Egypt in state of emergency as clashes leave 278 dead - World - CBC News". Archived from the original on 10 September 2013. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  33. ^ "State of emergency and curfew to officially end on Thursday". Ahram Online. 13 November 2013. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  34. ^ "Egypt declares state of emergency in Sinai". Al Jazeera. 25 October 2014. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  35. ^ "Egypt extends North Sinai state of emergency for 3rd time this year". Ahram Online. 28 October 2015. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  36. ^ "Egypt declares state of emergency after church bombings". www.aljazeera.com. Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  37. ^ Samaan, Magdy; Walsh, Declan (9 April 2017). "Egypt Declares State of Emergency, as Attacks Undercut Promise of Security". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  38. ^ "Egypt Lifted its State of Emergency: What Now?". Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. 10 November 2021. Retrieved 2 December 2023.
  39. ^ Yee, Vivian (25 October 2021). "Egypt's Leader Ends State of Emergency, Says It's No Longer Needed". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 23 December 2021.
  40. ^ "Egyptian president extends state of emergency for 3 months". Ahram Online. MENA. 22 July 2021. Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  41. ^ "Egypt: Abolish the Emergency State Security Courts and End Miscarriages of Justice". International Commission of Jurists. 24 January 2023. Retrieved 31 January 2024.
  42. ^ "Egypt: Stop trials by emergency courts". Amnesty International. 31 October 2021. Retrieved 31 January 2024.