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Renewing emergency measures
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 10 - 01 - 2019

The House of Representatives approved a three-month extension of the nationwide state of emergency on 13 January.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi first imposed a state of emergency in April 2017, following bombings at two churches in which 47 people were killed and more than 12 injured. On 21 October 2018 the series of emergency measures was extended to mid-January 2019. At the time Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli told MPs the extension was necessary because of the security challenges facing the country. Parliament has now confirmed an additional extension, as contained in Presidential Decree 17/2019, continuing the state of emergency for an additional three months, beginning at 1am on 15 January.
The latest extension was passed without discussion. MPs told Al-Ahram Weekly they had approved the motion out of the conviction the state of emergency was playing a pivotal role in ridding Egypt of the threat of terrorism.
“Look at Egypt between 2013 and 2018, when there was no state of emergency, and look at it now, after emergency laws were declared in 2017,” said Kamal Amer, head of parliament's Defence and National Security Committee.
“The main objective of the state of emergency is to prevent terrorist organisations from infiltrating borders and targeting citizens and public property, and this objective has to a large extent been achieved.”
Amer pointed out that in 2018 there was only one attack targeting Christians, when a bus transporting Copts in the governorate of Minya was shot at and nine people were killed.
“The stability we enjoyed in 2018 was a leading factor in Egypt winning the right to host the African Football Cup Championship in 2019,” Tarek Radwan, head of parliament's African Affairs Committee, told the Weekly. Egypt's security strategy, he added, supported by the state of emergency, meant Egypt had been able to host several international conferences and engineer a boost in tourist.
According to Amer, one goal of the emergency regime is to create the stability necessary to carry out development programmes. “You can't boost economic growth or improve living conditions without stability,” he said.
In a press interview veteran security expert Fouad Allam argued that, “many countries facing terrorist threats have successfully used emergency measures as an effective tool to counter the threats.” He cited France, Turkey and Tunisia as examples.
Allam added a state of emergency had also helped Egypt stem the tide of terrorist attacks in the mid-1990s.
“The only language terrorist organisations know is the language of force. If you show any kind of hesitation in targeting them they will take this as a sign of weakness,” he said.
Under the Mubarak regime the Muslim Brotherhood mobilised opposition against emergency measures “not because the measures, as they claimed, came at the expense of human rights, but because the measures were mainly targeting their sources of funding and underground operations”, said Allam.
A state of emergency was first declared in Egypt in 1958 under Gamal Abdel-Nasser. Under the emergency law military and police authorities are mandated to take all measures necessary to preserve security across the country, safeguard public and private property and protect the lives of citizens.
A report prepared by parliament's Defence and National Security Committee said the extension is necessary because of the security challenges Egypt faces.
“Largely thanks to the emergency law, the military and police have been able to eliminate most of the terrorist movements threatening the country, particularly in North Sinai. But the emergency law remains an important and necessary tool in safeguarding the country against terrorist threats coming from neighbouring countries such as Libya and Gaza. It gives police forces the powers necessary to foil any terrorist attempts targeting the national and internal security of Egypt,” said the report.
The 25-30 parliamentary coalition issued a statement saying that if the possibility of future threats were to be used to justify emergency measures now then Egypt faced the prospect of living under emergency rule in perpetuity.
“Surely now that stability has secured, as the state authorities constantly tell us, then the state of emergency, which comes at the expense of public freedoms, should end,” said the statement.
In a statement before parliament last October Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli said the government would apply exceptional measures in a way that strikes a balance between public freedoms and the needs of national security.
“We want to make sure that emergency measures only target terrorists,” he said.
“The extension of the state of emergency is necessary to ensure that the country moves forward on the road of comprehensive development in a climate of complete stability.”

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