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Ruling Military Council Reinvokes Egypt’s “Emergency Law”

September 15, 2011

General Mamdouh Shaheen announced that the military intends to make use of the Emergency Law rather than end it. Reuter photo.

One of the chief demands of the Jan 25th uprising was the insistence that the Emergency Law in place since 1981 be abolished. The Egyptian Constitution grants civilians many rights–the emergency law abrogates many of them in the name of national security.

The practical effect of the law has long been to protect military and police forces from punishment for almost any act, from extortion to torture.

In March, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces vowed to abolish the Emergency Law by 30 September in accordance with the cnstitutional declaration passed last March.

However, on August 11,  General Mamdouh Shaheen announced in a TV interview that the Emergency Law would not expire at the end of the month, and that the military would uses the Law’s authority to try rioters and protesters arrested over the Sept. 9-11 weekend in military courts.

The military justified the decision with reference the events of this month–labor strikes, a pro-democracy demonstration in Tahrir, a sit-in before the US embassy for the release of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, and the invasion of the Israeli embassy by Egyptian protesters.

“What the Egyptian street is currently witnessing is terrorism,” said General Shaheen.

Coupled with recent crackdowns on the media, this decision has increased fears that the military is returning to the tactics and strategies of the mubarak regime.

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