Problems on hold
The Palm Sunday (9 April) twin suicide bombings at the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in the mid-Delta town of Tanta, and at Alexandria’s St Mark’s cathedral sent shock waves through Egypt. The State moved to take serious measures against the terrorism brazenly targeting Copts and their churches; the solidarity of the Egyptian people, police and army; and the dignity and authority of the State. President Sisi directly called for an emergency meeting of the National Defence Council, a move that reflected the gravity of the situation. The Council decided to declare a three-month state of emergency and to form a supreme council to counter terrorism and extremism on the religious, education, media and legal fronts.
Less than 24 hours later the House of Representatives approved these decisions. A three-month nationwide state of emergency was declared as of Monday 10 April 1.00pm. The House’s decision fulfilled the constitutional requirement that gave State apparatuses a free hand to implement the measures needed to battle terrorism. The armed forces were accordingly deployed in towns and around urban areas to collaborate with the police in enforcing the law, ensuring security, preventing crime and working to put an end to terrorism.
I would like to highlight and comment on a few points that caught my attention in the House of Representatives’ special committee report on the declaration of a state of emergency.
The report cited the terrorist bombings on Sunday 9 April 2017 at Mar-Girgis’s in Tanta and St Mark’s in Alexandria, and the victims and injured from among civilians and security forces left in their wake. It stressed the international predicaments and strife that abound in the region; also the attempts by some regional forces to interfere in Egypt’s affairs, and the emergence of organisations and cells that work inside Egypt for the benefit of these forces, threatening thus Egyptian safety and security. All these grave hazards, the report said, could only be countered through special deterrent toolscapable of dealing with organised terrorist waves.
I confirm my confidence that Egypt’s State apparatuses know and can identify the forces that conspire against our country and people, be they terrorist groups, foreign countries, or quasi-States on our northeast border. I am also confident that determining the means and timing to deal with these evil forces is controlled by Egyptian national security considerations alone.
The report declared that the Emergency Law would allow the security forces to dismantle numerous terrorist organisations, dry up their sources and funding resources, expose their communication channels with the outside, and abort their peril beforehand. I see this preamble as very clearly revealing the need to fill specific gaps which under normal circumstances fettered the efforts of the authorities concerned and hindered them from swiftly moving, pursuing and dealing with suspicious incidents or elements. It barred security forces from taking pre-emptive measures to cut the road before terrorism and crime, and restricted security action to responding to terrorism.
The report stressed that the Emergency Law 162 of 1958 included a number of judicial provisions to secure that individuals’ constitutional rights and freedoms are not compromised on account of the special measures taken to combat terrorism. I was relieved to note the keenness of the committee to stress this point, especially following media campaigns against the Emergency Law, under the pretext that it threatened individual rights and freedoms. These campaigns were spearheaded by various movements that claim to defend human rights, but that nonetheless appear unconcerned that these rights and freedoms are usurped by terrorism in all its forms inside and outside Egypt: by trans-continent religious terrorism, education terrorism, media terrorism and armed terrorism.
The supreme council for countering terrorism and extremism is now shouldered with the task of living up to its name.
23 April 2017