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On October 25, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced that he was ending the country’s state of emergency, which had been in place since April 2017.

The 2014 constitution limits the state of emergency to three months, with a single three-month renewal—a stipulation meant to prevent a return to former President Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade-long state of emergency—but al-Sisi and parliament circumvented the restriction by routinely establishing “new” states of emergency.

The state of emergency granted the president sweeping new powers (or at least attempted to legitimize them), as well as authorizing the military and police to take “any necessary measures” in the name of confronting terrorism. It also allowed for the creation of emergency courts, whose judges are appointed by the president and whose rulings cannot be appealed. 

Researcher Ahmed Samir Santawy was convicted in such a court in June of this year, while Mohamed El-BaqerAlaa Abdel Fattah, and Mohamed “Oxygen” Ibrahim were recently referred to trial in one. Ziad El-ElaimyHisham Fouad, and Hossam Moanis are also currently standing trial in an emergency court. They and others whose cases have already been referred to emergency courts will still face trial there.

Lifting the state of emergency was one of the seven demands made by five prominent Egyptian human rights groups in July, but it remains to be seen what practical impact the termination will have—considering the president’s centralization of power, the government’s widespread abuses of human rights even before the state of emergency began, and authorities’ consistent flouting of their own laws and the constitution, as exemplified by their near-total disregard for the two-year limit on pretrial detention. 

As the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies put it last week, “The control of the security sectors over government institutions [has reduced the country’s laws] to mere ink on paper, despite the government’s proud emphasis on the constitution before the international community.”


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