Freedom House Condemns Extension of Egypt’s Emergency Law | Page 71 | Freedom House

Freedom House Condemns Extension of Egypt’s Emergency Law

Washington

The Egyptian Cabinet’s extension of the long-opposed emergency law and the expansion of its powers further limits fundamental rights, including freedom of expression and assembly, and threatens the prospects for transparent, free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections, according to Freedom House.
 
“The extension of emergency laws and the vaguely-worded new offenses they prohibit will grant broad authority to government officials and the military to interfere in public discourse and intimidate opponents,” said Charles Dunne, senior program manager for the Middle East and North Africa at Freedom House.  “This can only have a chilling effect on civic and political participation in the run-up to parliamentary and presidential elections, and has dangerous implications for Egypt’s progress towards democracy.”

Prime Minster Essam Sharaf implemented the Supreme Council of Armed Forces’ (SCAF) “Decree 193” on September 15, extending Egypt’s thirty-year old emergency law. This comes despite the SCAF’s previous pledges to lift the law prior to elections. It was set to expire September 30 after being renewed in May 2010, but a riot and break-in at the Israeli embassy on September 9 was used as a pretext for reinstating the law. The law allows those arrested to be detained without charge or trial for up to 45 days. Suspects, who are tried in State Security Emergency Courts,  have no right to appeal.  The law will now allow prosecutions for provoking “internal instability,” criticizing the military and the government, and those who commit crimes relating to infringement, vandalism, blocking roads and obstructing traffic, and spreading “false or misleading information” in the media.   While Sharaf’s cabinet claims the law will not apply to “peaceful protests” or “opinions,” the new restrictions appear largely aimed at discouraging street protests and other avenues of criticizing the military and its decisions. 

Egyptians have been the victims of an increasing crackdown on public debate, including the reinstatement of the Ministry of Information, a ministry that does not exist in most democracies and is viewed as restrictive by many activists. At least 12,000 civilians have been tried in military courts since February 2011, according to Human Rights Watch.   Bloggers, journalists and those critical of the military have been arrested and restrictions have been placed on publication or broadcast of information or opinion about the military. In August 2011, activist and blogger Asmaa Mahfouz was arrested and charged with inciting violence against the military for her social networking posts.
 
Egypt is ranked Not Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.
 
For more information on Egypt, visit:
 
 
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc) and stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our RSS feeds.

 

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhouse). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter.