Thursday, May 31, 2012
SCAF lifts Egyptian state of emergency which has been in place since 1981
The Egyptian Supreme Council of the Armed Forces SCAF has finally abolished the state of emergency that has been in place in Egypt since 1981, the year in which president Anwar al-Sadat was murdered. Over the years thousands of people have been arrested under this law that permitted to keep them in prison, without due process as administrative detainees. Thousands also have also been tried before Emergency State Security Courts. Moreover a special State Security Investigations Service (SSI) used to follow the steps of millions of Egyptians. In March last year the Interior Ministry abolished the SSI and announced a new national security body, the Egyptian Homeland Security, after the SSI offices in Cairo and Alexandria had been stormed. No details have ever been given as to whether former SSI officers were integrated in the new body, or whether anybody will be investigated for human rights violations.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had partially lifted the state of emergency at the beginning of this year, except for cases of 'thuggery.' This meant, in practice, that the state of emergency continues until its end on 31 May, according to a presidential decree, which which issued by Mubarak and extended the state of emergency for two years, from 1 June 2010 to 31 May 2012.
Lifting of the state of emergency had been a demand of the protesters of Tahrir for the beginning. Also human rights organisations like Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights EIPR had repeatedly asked for it.
What is not clear yet, is what is to happen to detainees under the state of emergency currently still in Egyptian prisons. According to numbers available to the EIPR, there are at least than 89 people at the moment held in Egyptian prisons who were placed under administrative detention in the last few months of 2011 and the first few of 2012. All of them were detained by the Criminal Investigations Bureau, and more than half of them arrested in their homes. While for a number of them the reason for arrest is not know, most of them were arrested for criminal and not political reasons.