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(New York) – The Egyptian government’s renewal of the emergency law today for two more years breaches again its 2005 promise to end the state of emergency and repeal the law, Human Rights Watch said.

The government said that it would limit the use of the emergency law to terrorism and drug-related crimes, subject to judicial supervision, a promise it has previously made and then broken, most recently in February 2010. In fact, security officials continue to use the emergency law to detain people in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism and instead target political dissent. The law has been used repeatedly against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, activists and bloggers.

“Instead of cosmetic changes to the emergency law, the government needs to repeal it and restore the basic rights of its citizens,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The government claims that the emergency law is subject to judicial review. In fact, the government frequently disregards court orders to release detainees held under the emergency law, and the Interior Ministry is empowered under the law to renew detention orders on its own authority.

The government also stated that it would cease using the emergency law to monitor communications. However, the 2007 amendments to Article 179 of the constitution already gave it the power to monitor communications outside of the emergency law and without judicial warrant in terrorism-designated cases.

The continued application of the emergency law violates the government’s international human rights obligations to protect freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and fair trial rights, Human Rights Watch said.

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