Egypt’s president expands power, claims commitment to coronavirus

by Abdulmumeen S. Yitta

Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Egypt’s President has approved amendments to the Egypt’s state of emergency which gives additional power to the president and security agencies to primarily combat coronavirus pandemic.

The measures that brought about the amendments were last month approved by parliament whose most members are el-Sissi’s supporters.

With the Friday amendment, president would enjoy powers to take appropriate measures to prevent spread of the virus.

He could order schools and universities closure and compulsory quarantine for anyone returning from abroad.

He would also be empowered to issue ban on any form of assembly in public places, private meetings, celebrations, protests and others.

Managing protests, the government has for years banned protests that are unauthorized. And there has been unsparing crackdown on dissent since the president came to power in 2013.

Also with the amendments, the president could also order postponement of taxes and utility payments and provide necessary support for any affected sectors.

The amendment would also empower military prosecutors to carry out investigation into law enforcement tasks that could be given to military officials or ordered by the president.

Chief civilian prosecutor could also make final decision on when legal matters could be brought to trials.

The amendment has since its approval met with criticism from an international rights group which said that the government has used the global pandemic to expand, not reform Egypt’s abusive emergency law.

Speaking about the nature of the amendments, Human Rights Watch said,
“However, only five of the 18 amendments are clearly related to public health, and the new powers can be used whenever a state of emergency is declared.”

While speaking about the amendments, Africa director for Middle East and North Africa division of Human Right Watch group, Joe Stork said,
“Some of these measures could be needed in public health emergencies, but they should not be open to abuse as part of an unreformed emergency law.”

“Resorting to ‘national security and public order’ as a justification reflects the security mentality that governs Sissi’s Egypt,” Joe added.

In a fierce battle against the pandemic, the Egypt’s government has banned international air travel, closed down schools, universities, mosques and churches including visit to Giza pyramids and other archaeological sites in the country.

The country is at the moment in partial lockdown with 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew imposed across the nation. The lockdown would last for the next two weeks until the end of the month of Ramadan.

Egypt with a 100 million population has so far recorded about 9,000 confirmed cases and 514 deaths with more than 2,002 recoveries from the virus.

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