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Dictatorship through democracy

New emergency law threatens to severely curb freedom

Under the proposed emergency laws President Morsy would assume a wide range of extraordinary powers  Mohamed Omar
Under the proposed emergency laws President Morsy would assume a wide range of extraordinary powers
Mohamed Omar

A reported leak of the new emergency law drafted by Minister of Justice Ahmed Mekki appeared in several news outlets Sunday.

The law, which is made up of ten articles, makes it harder for the President to declare a state of emergency, but gives him near-dictatorial powers if he does so.

The first article says the emergency law can only be declared in times of exceptional danger due to war, unrest, natural disasters, environmental or health crises or the spread of an epidemic.

The President is the only one with the power to declare a state of emergency and can only do so after consulting Cabinet and then getting the People’s Assembly’s approval within one week.

If the assembly is not in session it shall be called to extraordinary session. The assembly is dissolved, the new assembly votes on the matter unless the new assembly will not go into session within a week in which case the dissolved assembly is called back into session.

The emergency law will only remain in effect for six months and cannot be extended unless a nationwide referendum approves extending it.

Although the law makes it hard for the President to declare or extend the emergency law, it allows the President some very controversial powers once a state of emergency has been declared.

The President will have the power to allow arrests without warrants or due process on the basis of suspicion and the ability to declare curfew and limit freedom of assembly, movement and residence.

In the case of war the President would gain even greater emergency powers, such as the power to monitor all forms of communications, censor the press, revoke gun licences and evacuate or isolate certain areas.

The President would also be able to assign anyone he likes to any tasks he wishes if the country is at war, and is allowed to give himself more powers if Parliament approves.

Those arrested under emergency laws can have their detention reordered every 15 days up to a total of six months. The President also has the power to try by military tribunals those who accused of murder, robbery, thuggery, blocking roads or railways, damaging state institutions or limiting freedom of work.

In case of war the President may expand the list of crimes that warrant military trials at will.

Mekki submitted his draft law to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for adoption but it was ignored. Now that President Mohamed Morsy has cancelled the June 2012 supplementary constitutional decree and assumed legislative powers himself, Mekki has referred the law to him.

Many already believe Morsy has too much power, with supreme authority over both the executive and legislative branches of state and having quickly consolidated his power over the military.

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