Egypt’s parliament has approved amendments to the Emergency Law allocating the president 18 new powers, which will allegedly enable him to confront the coronavirus pandemic.
Egypt has been under a state of emergency since 10 April 2017 following an attack on two churches in the north of the country which killed 45 Copts. Despite the fact that emergency law was originally stipulated to last for three months it has consistently been renewed.
The extra powers have granted President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi the ability to choose and appoint the military prosecution to investigate crimes.
Egypt’s justice system is already under intense scrutiny over the large number of death sentences issued and mass trials in which hundreds of prisoners are sentenced in one go leaving little room for individual evidence to be heard or scrutinised.
Under the new amendments Al-Sisi will also be able to suspend schools, universities and restrict public meetings, celebrations and demonstrations.
The president will have the power to insist Egyptians returning from abroad enter quarantine, solidifying a controversial measure which has been put in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Egyptians returning to the country complained they were being forced to pay for their own hotel rooms in five-star resorts owned by the government and the military, for two weeks. After a flurry of complaints, the government relaxed the rules for some returnees.
As part of the new amendments, Al-Sisi will have the authority to delay taxes, utility bill payments and control the price of some goods and services.
The Emergency Law already gave the president exceptional powers to monitor media and communications, expropriate property, try suspects in exceptional trials and impose curfews. It also gave the armed forces the power to address any violations of these powers.
These latest amendments need Al-Sisi’s signature before they become law.