Emergency law in Egypt

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An emergency law was first enacted in Egypt in 1958, as Law No. 162 of 1958.[1] A state of emergency was declared in 1967 during the 1967 Arab–Israeli War which lasted until 1980.[2] After a break of 18 months, a state of emergency was reimposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981,[3] and was repeatedly extended every three years.[4] The continuous state of emergency was one of the grievances of demonstrators giving rise to the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.

After Hosni Mubarak resigned, the emergency law expired on 31 May 2012 and with it the state of emergency,[5][6] two weeks before the second round of voting in Egypt's 2012 presidential election. On 13 June 2012, the military government 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.[7][8][9][10] 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.[11]

On 14 August 2013, the military appointed acting president of Egypt, Adly Mansour, declared a state of emergency for one month in response to the Rabaa massacre, which was further extended by another two months.

Details of the law[edit]

During a state of emergency, police powers are extended, constitutional rights are suspended, censorship is legalised[12][13] and habeas corpus is abolished. It limits non-governmental political activity, including street demonstrations, unapproved political organizations and unregistered financial donations.[2] 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.[3]

The Mubarak government had cited the threat of terrorism in extending emergency law,[4] claiming that opposition groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood could gain power in Egypt if the government did not forgo parliamentary elections and suppress the group through emergency law.[14] This has led to the imprisonment of activists without trial,[15] illegal, undocumented and hidden detention facilities[16] and the rejection of university, mosque and newspaper staff based on their political affiliation.[17] A December 2010 parliamentary election was preceded by a media crackdown, arrests, candidate bans (particularly Muslim Brotherhood candidates) and allegations of fraud due to the near-unanimous victory by the NDP in parliament.[2] Human-rights organizations estimate that in 2010, between 5,000 and 10,000 people were in long-term detention without charge or trial.[18][19] Some 17,000 people were detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners were as high as 30,000.[20][21]

Under a state of emergency, the government is empowered to imprison individuals for any period of time, and for virtually no reason. 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.[22] 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 had been continuously extended every three years since 1981. 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 President Hosni Mubarak had previously promised reforms including the repeal of the Emergency Law, to replace it with other measures, such as specific anti-terrorism legislation.[3] The extension was justified by the Dahab bombings in April of that year.[23][24] In May 2008 there was a further extension to June 2010.[25] In May 2010, the law was extended again for two years, albeit with a promise from the government that it will be applied only to 'terrorism and drug' suspects.

During the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, a key demand by the protesters was an end to the state of emergency. While then President 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 Emergency 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.[26]

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.[27]

The Emergency Law expired on 31 May 2012 and with it the state of emergency.[28] On 14 August 2013, the acting president of Egypt, Adly Mansour, after the Council of Ministers' approval, declared a state of emergency for one month and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. The decision followed acts of sabotage that resulted in dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries.[29] This followed deadly countrywide clashes between supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi and the security forces.[30]

The state of emergency in Egypt[edit]

Recent political and legal developments within the Arab region have resurrected previously dormant historical debates and endowed them with a new life and vitality. The theory of exceptionality has been prominent within these debates, being repeatedly reasserted in different constitutional drafts, and even celebrated, as a means through which political authority maintain and secure ‘the public order’. Over the course of the 20th century, the debates about the state of emergency being a ‘profoundly elusive and ambivalent concept’ have been analyzed in as an act of political governance. Egypt long lasting rule relying on an emergency context has provided a worthy manifestation of how emergency rule have been installed in political and legal settings; and become presented as an only way to govern; in which it had been incorporated in different constitutions and manifested into a political exercise.[31]


  1. ^ Law 1958/161 (Emergency Law) (in Arabic) at EMERglobal Lex, part of the Edinburgh Middle East Report. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Law 1958/162 (Emergency Law)". Edinburgh Middle East Report. Retrieved 2 April 2010.(registration required)
  3. ^ a b c Williams, Daniel (2006-04-30). "Egypt Extends 25-Year-Old Emergency Law". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-01-29.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Othman, Dalia (31 May 2012). "State of emergency ends, military council says will not renew". Egypt Independent. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Egypt lifts unpopular emergency law". CNN. 31 May 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2012.
  7. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (14 June 2012). "Egypt Reimposes Martial Law, Ahead of Closely Watched Ruling". The New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  8. ^ "Egypt decree grants arrest powers to military". Al Jazeera. 13 June 2012. Retrieved 14 June 2012.
  9. ^ Kirkpatrick, David D. (18 June 2012). "Egypt's Ruling Generals Soften Tone as Islamist Wins Presidency". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  10. ^ Londoño, Ernesto (13 June 2012). "Egypt's military given power to detain civilians days before presidential vote". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 June 2012.
  11. ^ "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.
  12. ^ Kassem, May (1999). In the guise of democracy: governance in contemporary Egypt. Garnet & Ithaca Press. pp. 57–58.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Caraley, Demetrios (April 2004). American Hegemony: Preventive War, Iraq, and Imposing Democracy. Academy of Political Science. ISBN 1-884853-04-8.
  15. ^ Choney, Suzanne (27 January 2011). "Egyptian bloggers brave police intimidation". NBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2011.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Egypt: Keep Promise to Free Detainees by End of June: Joint Statement" (Press release). Amnesty International. 29 June 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2011.
  19. ^ Holder, R. Clemente (July–August 1994). "Egyptian Lawyer's Death Triggers Cairo Protests". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  20. ^ "Enough is still enough". Al-Ahram Weekly. 8 September 2005. Archived from the original on 19 September 2014. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  21. ^ R. Clemente Holder (August 1994). "Egyptian Lawyer's Death Triggers Cairo Protests". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 2011-01-26.
  22. ^ Caraley, Demetrios (April 2004). American hegemony: preventive war, Iraq, and imposing democracy. Academy of Political Science. ISBN 1-884853-04-8.
  23. ^ Simon Apiku. Egypt to lift 25-year-old emergency laws. Middle East On-line, 23 March 2006."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-08-24. Retrieved 2006-04-16.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. ^ 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
  25. ^ Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani. EGYPT: Despair Over Two More Years of Martial Law.Inter Press Service News Agency. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-05-18. Retrieved 2009-06-20.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  26. ^ "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.
  27. ^ "Egypt's ruling generals to partially lift emergency law". BBC. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  28. ^ CNN Wire Staff (31 May 2012). "Egypt lifts unpopular emergency law". CNN. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  29. ^ "Egypt declares state of emergency". Al Jazeera English. 14 August 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2014.
  30. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-09-10. Retrieved 2015-02-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "From Manshiya to Alexandria: Re-Examining the Process of Constitutionalizing, Rationalizing, and Normalizing the Emergency Status in Egypt (2020) / DR.Asem Khalil / Nora Taha".