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Egypt’s continuous state of emergency devastating for rights abuses, CFJ says

The continued application of the state of emergency in Egypt has had a devastating effect on human rights abuses, concludes the Committee for Justice (CFJ) in a recent report.

For decades Egyptians have suffered under emergency and martial law, “a whip in the hands of Egypt’s rulers to strengthen their power and grip on society,” according to the CFJ.

It is used as “a collective punishment of the masses” to justify tools such as continual pretrial detention, the prosecution of tens of thousands of citizens, torture, enforced disappearance, the persecution of workers and more.

Under the emergency law the Egyptian government has passed vaguely worded decrees to expand restrictions on public freedoms and grant broader powers of detention to law enforcement so they can be interpreted according to the will of security authorities.

Emergency legislation in the name of the state of emergency, such as the anti-terror law, has been passed, despite widespread criticism from the United Nations among other agencies.

The state of emergency has allowed the executive authority to interfere in the work of the judiciary, for example by replacing ordinary courts with exceptional courts. The government has also interfered in the appointment, dismissal and transfer of judges.

Egyptian authorities have used the COVID-19 crisis to impose restrictions on the public liberties of Egyptians, the report found, including quashing the right to peacefully protest.

Under resolutions based on the emergency law issued as part of the state’s plan to combat coronavirus, the government has suspended events requiring the gathering of citizens, including performances held in cinemas and theatres, and closed sports clubs and youth centres.

Since 2013 the full use of the state of emergency in North Sinai has been implemented, empowering the armed forces and police to act based on counterterror and at the same time causing the forced displacement of tens of thousands of people from the governorate.

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