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Who Needs Emergency Laws? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I do not understand the significance of emergency laws in any Arab country since the excessive center of power is able to detain, investigate, and punish its own citizens as long as it sees this as a necessity for security. However, I understand when complicated democratic systems have to resort to exceptional laws under special circumstances, such as the Patriot Act, a set of laws that the United States turned to after 9/11. This act enabled the United States to detain, investigate and undertake exceptional security procedures. In such countries, the president cannot implement such laws without agreement. Moreover, if he does execute such laws without permission, he is liable to severe punishments along with other major ministers.

As for the Arab world, if governments had paid attention to implementing accuracy, commitment and regulation or if they had only implemented effective legislative and judicial measures to track down criminals, we would then have understood the importance of exceptional and emergency laws. The measures and procedures carried out by Arab governments are all exceptional. The Arab government is the ruling party, the state and the judicial system, and can decide, terminate and violate without being held accountable, all in the name of its people. Therefore, I would like to ask Egyptian government officials, why does the government need to implement the old emergency act?

Is it to allow security authorities to detain suspects for sixty days instead of the usual 48 hours?

It is difficult for me to imagine that either security officials or the general prosecutor would have any trouble in detaining a terror suspect for longer periods. Security officials or the general prosecutor would never run out of semi-legal methods and even if they violate laws in major national security issues such as terrorism, their mistakes would be forgiven, or rather forgotten by the public. When we refer to emergency acts in the Arab world, we are simply referring to an everyday practice as well as major negligence of laws all over the Arab world. Prison administration for example, is able to extend the sentences of petty criminals costing the government huge amounts of money and violating judicial verdicts that have already been delivered officially.

If the governments’ persistence on implementing emergency laws were to reflect its accuracy in implementing state laws or the government’s eagerness not to violate any commitments to legislation, then we would have praised such a respectable administrative stance. We would have forgiven the government for the implementation of emergency laws, however, the problem remains that Arab governments are excessively central, in that it is the executive and legislative authority at the same time.

I believe that Egypt is in need of an active and persistent campaign to combat terror cells. Such a campaign would necessitate the implementation of usual laws as terrorism presents the biggest threat to the international community. Countries that have been hit by terrorist acts on a lower scale such as Britain have resorted to changing some laws and expanding security. After all these attacks, we do not expect Egypt’s security authorities to remain the same as before, when it was designed to track down thieves, to help solve domestic issues and other crimes. The world has changed and so too have the justifications for violations of the law.

Those who request that the Egyptian government turn a blind eye to terrorists and extremism do not care about the laws or the country as much as they care about fuelling a political battle against the government. Therefore, we state that the Egyptian government could easily replace the old system of emergency laws with a set of defined regulations concerning terrorism and its sources, enabling the security authorities to detain and put suspects on trial quickly. As for the loose emergency laws, it simply gives publicity to its opponents.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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