Lifting State of Emergency positive step, but more action required to dismantle repressive laws

Press Release

31 October 2021

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) said today that the President's decision announced on 25 October to stop extending the state of emergency - imposed on all parts of the country since 2017 - is a positive step in the right direction, although it remains deficient alone in dismantling the arsenal of repressive legislation issued in recent years, which legitimized most of the powers of the emergency law and permanently integrated them into criminal laws.

The EIPR added that the decision to end the state of emergency would mean, in practical terms, the termination of the work of Supreme State Security Courts, which are exceptional courts that do not guarantee the minimum standards of fair trial, their rulings may not be appealed, and the president of the republic has the right to change or cancel these rulings or order a retrial unconditionally.

While EIPR welcomed the cessation of the work of emergency courts, it said that these exceptional courts - according to the emergency law - will continue to hear all cases that have already been referred to it by the Public Prosecution before the decision to lift the emergency state. Among those cases are the trial of Patrick George Zaki, a human rights researcher at EIPR, the trial of the "Hope Cell", which includes lawyer Ziad Al-Eleimi and journalists Hisham Fouad and Hossam Moanis, the trial of human rights lawyer Muhammad Al-Baqer and political activists Alaa Abdel-Fattah and Muhammad Radwan (Oxygen), that of human rights activists of establishing the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, the trial of Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, head of the Strong Egypt Party, and other cases currently heard before emergency courts in most of Egypt's governorates.

EIPR called for the immediate cessation of hearing all cases currently referred to state security courts after the end of the state of emergency, and the release of their defendants, especially since most of them have exceeded the maximum limit of pretrial detention stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure. It also called on the President of the Republic not to ratify all the rulings issued recently by those exceptional courts, and to order the cancellation of those rulings, especially the verdict issued last June against academic researcher Ahmed Samir Santawi, to four years in prison on charges of “spreading false news from outside the country about domestic conditions”. 

EIPR reiterated its demands for the immediate release of tens of thousands of political prisoners currently detained under repressive laws other than the emergency law. It also called for the amendment of those repressive laws used exclusively to prosecute citizens for exercising their constitutional rights to freedom of expression, organization and peaceful assembly, foremost the terrorism, terrorist entities and cybercrime laws, as well as articles restricting freedoms in the Penal Code, especially those that punish citizens for expressing their opinions under the pretext of "publishing false information or news".

Lifting the semi-permanent state of emergency, imposed in violation of the constitution and used to disrupt all basic freedoms and fair trial rights, was one of the elements of the "First Seven Steps" initiative launched by a coalition of Egyptian human rights organizations earlier this year and signed by more than fifty civil society organizations from Egypt and around the world. Other steps included the release of political prisoners held in pretrial detention or those sentenced for their peaceful activism, an end to prolonged and open-ended pretrial detention, a moratorium on executions, an end to criminal prosecutions of human rights defenders, the withdrawal of the government's draft personal status law, and the lifting of illegal blocking of internet websites and digital newspapers.