Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Egypt's "Emergency Law"

As reported in the N.Y. Times, the Egyptian Parliament has just extended country's emergency law, which gives authorities broad authority to arrest and detain people and to limit free speech and assembly.  Protesters allege that the law has been used to suppress dissent.  They question the purported terrorism-related rationale for the extension:

In an unusual case of public outreach by Egypt’s normally tight-lipped leaders, the government took pains to explain its decision and announced that the emergency law — in place continuously since President Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated in 1981 — would be used only in cases of terrorism and drug trafficking. Officials also said that some provisions of the law would be dropped.

But the concept of terrorism is so broad in Egyptian law and the language in the new measure so malleable, that the government decision was immediately criticized by human rights groups, political activists and independent human rights monitors, who say they expect little to change in a nation that routinely uses the heavy hand of the police and prisons to silence political opposition.
One might think of public space militarization as a matter of degree.  Egypt's emergency law, which is a kind of martial law-light, stands somewhere between Iran's escalated violence and executions and the surveillance and spatial tactics used in the U.S.  

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