Egypt: Government uses Coronavirus as an excuse to tighten its grip


GENEVA – Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties (GCRL) said that the Emergency Law amendments in Egypt would have a “chilling effect” on civil liberties and judicial power as it would increase government control over the country.

GCRL warned that amendments to the 1958 Emergency Law which were ratified on Thursday, May 7th by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, would entrench existing patterns of abuses under the pretext to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also confirm our fears that the Egyptian authorities are seeking legal cover to

While the government claims that the amendments concern public health emergencies like the coronavirus outbreak, only 5 of the 18 proposed amendments are related directly to the health crisis. Other amendments include expanded powers to ban public and private meetings, protests, celebrations, and other forms of assembly even in the absence of any public health emergency. They also allow President al-Sisi to restrict people from owning, transporting, selling, buying, or exporting any goods or services, as well as control their prices.

Some critics said that Sisi has abused the emergency law in the past to crack down on journalists, dissidents, and political opponents, he is now using the pandemic as a guise for abuses including the arrest of scores of Egyptians who criticized the government’s response to the pandemic. Since April 2017, Egypt has been under a state of emergency. The government says it’s needed to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, but critics say these are pretexts to strengthen Sissi’s hold on the country.

Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties pointed out that instead of releasing and easing the situation of the prison population including dozens of activists, political opponents, and journalists who are held in overcrowded, unsanitary prisons and detention centers, the government has denied the inmates visits from families and lawyers.

Geneva Council expressed also deep concerns over the expanding of the jurisdiction of military courts to prosecute civilians which would enhance military power and above all undermine the judiciary.

GCRL reiterates that bold measures taken in the name of containing the health crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus outbreak should not be exploited to put additional tools of repression, threaten liberties and expand the government’s power.

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