CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday announced that the state of emergency will be lifted for the first time in years.
Egypt imposed a state of emergency in April 2017 after deadly bombings of churches and has since routinely extended it at three-month intervals, despite an improved security situation.
“Egypt has become, thanks to its great people and its loyal men, an oasis of security and stability in the region,” al-Sisi said in a Facebook post. “This is why I decided to cancel the renewal of the state of emergency throughout the country,” he added.
The state of emergency was imposed by Sissi in April 2017 after two deadly bombings at Coptic churches killed dozens of people. The attacks were claimed by an affiliate group of the so-called Islamic State (IS). The emergency measures were imposed for three months after the bombings, but were renewed ever since, most recently last April.
The state of emergency granted authorities sweeping powers to make arrests and crackdown on what they call enemies of the state. It was applied during the extension of a clamp-down on political dissent under Sisi that has swept up liberal as well as critics over the past few years.
Egypt’s security forces have also been battling an insurgency by militants linked to Islamic State in northern Sinai, although they have recently consolidated their position in the area.
In May 2020, the emergency law was amended to counter the coronavirus outbreak. It gave the president further powers and expanded the jurisdiction of military courts over civilians.
Prominent Egyptian activist Hossam Bahgat welcomed the decision, saying it would stop the use of emergency state security courts, although it would not apply to some high-profile cases already referred to such courts.
Human Rights Watch researcher Amr Magdi said the damage that the emergency measure has caused “will need years to be reformed.”
“Security forces have gotten used to arresting and killing people without account for 10 years and the judiciary has been corrupted. Things will not change by lifting the emergency law,” Magdi said in a statement on Facebook.
Magdi said el-Sissi’s move, coming amid pressure over Egypt’s human rights track record, is for Washington and Westen allies to “rebrand their forbidden relationship with a government that is one of the most tyrannous governments of the past decade of human history.”