With the End of More Than 30 Years of Emergency Rule… EIPR: A First Step Towards Establishing the Rule of Law and Ending Impunity

Press Release

1 June 2012

Today, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) welcomed the end of the state of emergency, which had been in place for more than 30 years.

The state of emergency was announced on 6 October 1981 in the aftermath of the assassination of former president Anwar Sadat, and continued throughout the rule of deposed president Hosni Mubarak.

'The vast majority of the Egyptian people are under thirty and have lived their whole lives under emergency rule." said Hossam Bahgat, executive director of the EIPR. "Today is most people's first day  without the state of emergency. Today is a new victory for the revolution, without which this would not have been achieved", he added.

The state of emergency established a culture of impunity, which granted security forces wide powers to stop, search, and detain citizens based on emergency rulings. By the mid-90s, the number of political prisoners had reached more than 30,000 individuals, some of whom spent more than twenty years in prison without trial.

The state of emergency also granted the security apparatus the right to monitor communications, to search locations, and to confiscate printed materials without following the criminal procedures law or obtaining approval from the Public Prosecutor or the judiciary.

It permitted the trial of thousands before State Security Emergency Court and military courts, exceptional courts in which the minimum fair trial guarantees are absent. These courts issued hundreds of prison sentences and more than a hundred death sentences, with no right of appeal for those convicted.

According to statements made by General Ahmed Gamal el-Din, First Assistant Interior Minister for the general security sector, the Interior Ministry issued administrative detention orders for 1200 individuals since the January revolution, in accordance with the provisions of the emergency law. Most of these were detained on suspicion of criminal activity.

Bahgat emphasized the necessity to immediately release all those detained, or refer them to the Public Prosecutor for investigation. Similarly, all cases pending before State Security Emergency Courts must be referred to the normal criminal courts.

Bahgat added: "Our revolution was for the sake of freedom and human dignity. Let us close the dark chapter of emergency rule and take the first steps towards establishing the rule of law, and let us hold accountable all those who violate human rights under fair and deterrent laws."

With the end of the state of emergency, the police can no longer arrest suspects without a judicial warrant, unless the suspect is caught in flagrante. They have 24 hours to refer suspects to the public prosecutor or release them.

The Supreme Council for the Armed Forces issued a statement yesterday in which it announced that "Based on the national and historic responsibility which it bears; in view of the end of the state of emergency; pursuant to the provisions of the Constitutional Declaration and the law; and taking into account the national, popular, and political will, the Council confirms to the Egyptian people that it will continue to bear the national responsibility of protecting the security of the country and citizens during this crucial period."

According to the Constitutional Declaration and law no. 183 of 1952 concerning the co-operation between the armed forces and civilian powers in preserving security, the army has the right to assist civilian forces in preserving public security, according to the conditions enshrined in law.

EIPR invites the People's Assembly to conduct a comprehensive review of all legislation and amendments introduced to Egyptian law during Mubarak's rule and up until now, which added provisions which came essentially from the same culture of emergency rule and impunity.