On October 25, 2021, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi suspended the state of emergency in Egypt for the first time since he declared it four years ago.
On April 10, 2017, the Egyptian Council of Ministers approved the declaration of a state of emergency by the president — the first such declaration after Sisi’s election and the adoption of a new constitution in 2014. The president’s declaration was issued in response to the suicide bombing of a Christian Orthodox church north of Cairo.
Every three months since his initial declaration in April 2017, President Sisi has declared a continuation of the state of emergency, which has invariably been approved by the Council of Ministers and then reviewed and renewed by the Egyptian House of Representatives.
The 2014 Constitution
According to the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, the president of the republic, after consultation with the cabinet, has the right to declare a state of emergency. The executive branch must submit the declaration to the House of Representatives for review within seven days. (Egyptian Const. of 2014, art. 154, para. 1.)
If the declaration is made when the House of Representatives is not in regular session, a session is called immediately to review the declaration. (Art. 154, para. 2.) The declaration must be for a specified period not exceeding three months. A two-thirds’ majority of House members must approve the declaration. In the event the House of Representatives has been dissolved, the matter is submitted to the new House in the first session to follow. (Art. 154, para. 3.)
The president has no right to dissolve the House of Representatives while a state of emergency is in force. (Art. 154, para. 4.)
Emergency State Security Courts
The president’s decision to suspend the state of emergency is considered an implicit suspension of the work of the State Security Courts. The Emergency Law, No. 162 of 1958, established the Emergency State Security Courts, which operate only during a state of emergency. The panel of an Emergency State Security Court is composed of three judges. (Emergency Law No. 162 of 1958, art. 7, para. 2.) These courts have jurisdiction over crimes related to national security. (Art. 9.) They do not adjudicate civil disputes. (Art. 11.)
According to Prime Ministerial Resolution No. 43 of 2018, which defined the scope of jurisdiction of the Emergency State Security Courts, the courts have jurisdiction over the following crimes:
- Acts against state security.
- Holding illegal demonstrations and protests.
- Disrupting public transportation.
- The illegal use and trading of arms.
- Vandalizing places of worship.
- Destroying public facilities.
- Threatening the security of the society.
- Intimidating other citizens.
- Acts of terrorism. (Prime Ministerial Resolution No. 43 of 2018, art. 1.)
Reaction to the Suspension of State of Emergency
President Sisi’s decision to suspend the state of emergency has divided Egyptians into two groups. The first group of individuals, such as members of Parliament who are loyal to the regime, have endorsed his decision. They argue that the suspension of the state of emergency demonstrates the stability of security in the country.The second group does not believe that the suspension of the state of emergency and thus, the effects of Law No. 162 of 1958, will end legal measures restricting freedom of speech and assembly. Those individuals claim that counterterrorism and protest laws still impose restrictions on freedom of speech and the organizing of antigovernment protests.