Emergency measures a ‘catastrophe’ for Egypt
|Thursday, May 13,2010 23:49|
|By Nadia abou el-Magd, Foreign Correspondent|
CAIRO // Opposition leaders, rights groups and foreign governments have condemned the extension of Egypt’s three-decade state of emergency by a further two years.
The government insists the law, which has been in place since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 by Islamist militants, is needed to keep the country safe from terrorists and drug traffickers. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif reiterated this stance in a statement shortly before the vote. The opposition, however, says the government uses emergency rule to clamp down on political dissent.
The extension was backed by 308 MPs, mostly from the ruling party, while 101 voted against it.
The two year extension amounted to “continuation of repression [and] violation of basic freedoms [and] human rights. A day of grief,” the former head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog wrote on twitter after the law was passed.
Ayman Nour, opposition leader of Al Ghad party, who finished a distant second to Mr Mubarak in the 2005 presidential elections said Egyptians should take a unified unilateral stance against emergency laws. “We should take to the street, and act as if the emergency laws don’t exist, and then we’ll see what will happen,” he said.
In 2005, Mr Mubarak, the head of the ruling National Democratic Party, who has ruled since Sadat’s death, promised to end the state of emergency and replace it with a counterterrorism law. No progress appears to have been made.
The United States and international watchdogs expressed their disappointment that he had decided to continue the pattern.
“In fact, security officials continue to use the emergency law to detain people in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism and instead target political dissent. The law has been used repeatedly against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, activists and bloggers,” said the London-based group in a statement.
Even Al-Ahram, the oldest and largest circulating state-owned daily yesterday questioned the extension of emergency rule. “No Egyptian is happy with the continuation of emergency state or laws and wish it could end today,” the newspaper said in an editorial. “At the same time, no single Egyptian would accept ending it without having an umbrella that would protect us from dangers of terrorism ... as well as narcotic trafficking.”