Contribution: Khaled Said and the Egyptian emergency law

Writing for the Foreign Policy website, Soha Abdelaty discusses the death of Khaled Said, the 28-year-old man  who died while being arrested in Alexandria on June 6, in the context of Egypt’s semi-permanent (and recently renewed) emergency law:

In many ways, the case of Khaled Said is tragically symbolic of everything that is wrong with the state of emergency under which Egyptians have been living for almost three decades. In such an arbitrary and opaque system, torture and ill-treatment are a natural byproduct. And in fact, torture in police custody has been systematic and well documented since the 1990s. Khaled Said’s case is unusual only because his murder was witnessed by so many, captured on film, and distributed to thousands via Facebook.

Abdelaty continues:

Few were fooled when, by presidential decree, the Egyptian government renewed the state of emergency while claiming that its provisions would be limited to Article 3 (1) and (5) of the emergency law and only for drug- and terrorism-related crimes. Article 3 (1) permits “restrictions on the freedom of persons to assembly, movement, residence and passage in certain places or times; the arrest and detention of suspects or those representing a danger to public security and order; and the search of persons and places without regard for provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure.”

In effect, this means that provisions in Article 3 (1) and (5) of the emergency law will be applied to anyone deemed by the Ministry of Interior to be a “suspect” under one of those crimes. Given the broad definition of terrorism in the Egyptian penal code, a point which has been sharply criticised by several UN entities, as well as national and international NGOs, this effectively means anyone and everyone can be a suspect. Included in that definition is “any threat or intimidation” aimed at “disturbing the peace or jeopardising the safety and security of the society.”

… Said did not have any political affiliations, nor was he an activist – and he was hardly a terrorist. That the ministry claimed in its defence that he was an ex-con, apart from being false, raises the harrowing possibility that it believes it justifiable for a man to be beaten to death by security forces, with no judicial recourse, for being a suspected criminal.

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