President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi announced on Monday via his social media accounts that a state of emergency decree, which has been renewed every three months since 2017, will finally be lifted.
Since its original implementation in April 2017, the current state of emergency has granted security forces wide discretionary powers to quash political dissidence and suspend constitutionally conferred rights, including rights to property and to gather and communicate, with little to no avenues for judicial review. The current state of emergency, invoked by the 1958 Emergency Law, was declared in 2017 in response to a large-scale terrorist attack against Christian citizens on Palm Sunday. While Section 154 of the Egyptian Constitution limits a state of emergency period to three months with one opportunity for renewal, this has been ignored by President el-Sisi, who has utilised the majority pro-Sisi Parliament to endorse every consequent extension.
Since el-Sisi conducted the removal of Egypt’s only freely elected president, President Mohamed Morsy, in 2013, the current state of emergency has been invoked to implement an anti-protest law, banning all forms of peaceful gathering, an anti-terrorism law, which encompasses almost all forms of civil disobedience and various other legislative measures which allow for curfews and other restrictions of movement upon the Egyptian population.
According to several leading Egyptian human rights organisations, despite Egypt being in a relatively interrupted state of emergency since 1981, the most recent decree had resulted in record numbers of arbitrary detentions and restrictions on freedoms of expression, as the legislation treats political opposition as criminal behaviour. However, Human Rights Watch noted that while lifting the state of emergency is a necessary step forward to alleviate the curtailing of human rights in Egypt, it does not automatically reverse the overreaching and wide-sweeping legislation enacted under the decree that directly restricts the basic constitutional rights of Egyptian citizens.
While the reasons for el-Sisi’s announcement have yet to be confirmed, the announcement comes only months after the Biden administration threatened to withhold a portion of its foreign aid to Egypt unless a minimum threshold for human rights compliance was met.