Egypt pressed to lift emergency laws

Egypt pressed to lift emergency laws


THe French Ambassador stressed that it should be lifted “as swiftly as possible,” echoing similar statements by Britain, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States.

Egyptian minister for human rights and legislative affairs Mufid Shihab told the 47 member states that Cairo had pledged to lift the state of emergency once new legislation on terrorism and drug trafficking was adopted.

Egyptian security forces arrested several leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, the main opposition group, earlier this month.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Tuesday that such arrests marked “a crackdown that is typical of election years.”

HRW’s Middle East director Joe Stork urged Egypt to announce in Geneva an end to the state of emergency, restoring judicial supervision of arrests.

“This is all the more urgent because parliamentary elections are scheduled this year,” he added.

Some 5,000 to 10,000 people are thought to be held without charge according to Egyptian human rights organisations cited by HRW.

Britain recommended that Egypt also change laws of freedom of expression, assembly and religion before the elections.

Egypt is due to elect parliament’s upper house, or Shura Council, in April while elections for the lower house are expected later in the year. Presidential elections are scheduled for 2011.

The state of emergency was imposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by Islamic militants.

Egyptian authorities repeatedly accuse the Brotherhood — which was founded in 1928 — of seeking to topple the government, a charge the group denies.