The National Defence Council (NDC) imposed on Friday night a state of emergency in North Sinai for three months.
In a meeting following three explosions in Sinai that left 31 people dead, the NDC headed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, decided to close the Rafah crossing for an indefinite period and imposed a curfew in specific areas in North Sinai starting on Saturday.
The curfew will start at 5 pm and last until 7 am “until further notice”, and violating the emergency law would result in imprisonment, said a statement after the NDC meeting.
“The armed forces and the police authority shall take any action needed to confront the dangers of terrorism and its financing, and the maintenance of security in the region,” the statement said.
The National Defence Council also commissioned Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb to take the necessary measures to secure civilians inside the specified area.
Secretary General of the Nasserist Al-Karama Party Khalid Arafat criticised the curfew imposed on North Sinai.
“The curfew should be imposed only on the entrances and exits of North Sinai and on the ring roads around it, not all over the province,” he said.”It a negative impact on people’s daily lives in the peninsula. We shouldn’t be besieged this way.”
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stated: “The emergency law is a tool in the hands of the executive power to storm many basic rights and freedom guaranteed by the Egyptian Constitution.”
The emergency law grants to the authorities the broad power to impose restrictions on the freedoms of assembly, move or residence; the power to arrest and detain suspects or those deemed dangerous, and the power to search individuals and places without the need to follow the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code.
It also gives the authorities the right to establish exceptional courts such as the state security courts and the Supreme State Security Court of Emergency to hear cases related to crimes committed in violation of rulings made by the president or his deputy, and the right to include members of the military in the formation of the courts, states Article 7 of the law.
Article 3 of the emergency law gives the military ruler or his deputy the power to monitor and confiscate newspapers, booklets and other publications.
Article 9 confers to the president the right to refer to the State Security Courts of Emergency those accused of crimes that are punishable under the common law.
The president also has the right to evacuate areas as needed.
Before the 25 January Revolution, Egypt had been under a state of emergency since 1981, following the assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat and the beginning of Hosni Mubarak’s presidency.
President Gamal Abdel Nasser first enacted the emergency law in 1958, as Law 162 of 1958. El-Sadat suspended the law for 18 months in 1980-81.
In 2006, the Mubarak government extended the emergency law, despite earlier promises that it would be cancelled and replaced with specific anti-terrorism measures.
A key demand by the proteseors during the 25 January Revolution was to end the emergency law. However, in September 2011 the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), who took command of the country after Mubarak’s toppling, decided to amend a number of articles and add new ones to the emergency law.
The state of emergency, and with it the emergency law, expired on 31 May 2012, two weeks before the second round of voting in Egypt’s first presidential election after Mubarak’s toppling.
But emergency law was reintroduced by elected president Mohamed Morsi in January 2013 for 30 days in the governorates of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia after three days of protests and clashes.
On 14 August 2013, interim president Adly Mansour declared the state of emergency for one month following the crackdown by security forces on the two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo. Later, it was extended for two months.
Friday’s meeting that brought back the state of emergency was attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb, the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs and finance, and chief of staff of the armed forces, chairman of the General Intelligence, the leaders of the main armed forces branches, chief of operations and director of military intelligence.