Egypt’s Emergency Law expires

After 31 years, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced the expiration of the state of emergency. The emergency law has been in place since 1981, after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. It was one of the main grievances against the regime of Hosni Mubarak in last year’s uprisings, and demonstrators have ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

After 31 years, Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced the expiration of the state of emergency. The emergency law has been in place since 1981, after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. It was one of the main grievances against the regime of Hosni Mubarak in last year's uprisings, and demonstrators have continuously called for the SCAF to lift the law. Under the state of emergency, Egyptian security forces have had the power to detain suspects without charge and try them in military courts. Mubarak used the law to silence his political opponents. While the fate of those still imprisoned is unknown, the act sends a message to Egyptians that security forces will no longer operate above the law. However, the ruling military council said it would be responsible for national security until the June 30 power transfer. Meanwhile, an Egyptian court is expected to release a verdict on Saturday in the trial of Mubarak, his sons, and other regime officials charged with corruption and killing protesters ahead of presidential election run-offs.

Syria

Activists reported another case of mass killing in Syria ahead of an emergency U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 11 factory workers were killed when gunmen fired upon their bus as they traveled to their jobs near the town of Qusair in Homs province. The Syrian government blamed the opposition Free Syria army for the assault, as was the case in two similarly fierce attacks over the past week. During the emergency session, the Human Rights Council is set to discuss a draft resolution condemning last Friday's Houla massacre and calling for an investigation into the deaths. An estimated 108 people were killed. As violence intensifies, western diplomats have become increasingly concerned of an impending sectarian civil war.

After 31 years, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced the expiration of the state of emergency. The emergency law has been in place since 1981, after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. It was one of the main grievances against the regime of Hosni Mubarak in last year’s uprisings, and demonstrators have continuously called for the SCAF to lift the law. Under the state of emergency, Egyptian security forces have had the power to detain suspects without charge and try them in military courts. Mubarak used the law to silence his political opponents. While the fate of those still imprisoned is unknown, the act sends a message to Egyptians that security forces will no longer operate above the law. However, the ruling military council said it would be responsible for national security until the June 30 power transfer. Meanwhile, an Egyptian court is expected to release a verdict on Saturday in the trial of Mubarak, his sons, and other regime officials charged with corruption and killing protesters ahead of presidential election run-offs.

Syria

Activists reported another case of mass killing in Syria ahead of an emergency U.N. Human Rights Council meeting. According to the British based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 11 factory workers were killed when gunmen fired upon their bus as they traveled to their jobs near the town of Qusair in Homs province. The Syrian government blamed the opposition Free Syria army for the assault, as was the case in two similarly fierce attacks over the past week. During the emergency session, the Human Rights Council is set to discuss a draft resolution condemning last Friday’s Houla massacre and calling for an investigation into the deaths. An estimated 108 people were killed. As violence intensifies, western diplomats have become increasingly concerned of an impending sectarian civil war.

Headlines  

  • U.S. President Barack Obama ramped up covert cyber attacks on Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.
  • An Israeli soldier and Palestinian militant died in a firefight on the Gaza border provoking Israeli airstrikes.
  • The two U.S. tourists who were abducted in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday were released after an exchange for a Bedouin drug smuggler.

Arguments & Analysis

Horror in Houla’ (The Economist)

"The fourth option is to impose buffer zones and humanitarian corridors on Syria’s borders, starting with the Turkish one. This would both provide sanctuary to Syrian civilians fleeing attacks from Mr Assad’s forces and give the Free Syrian Army a place to retreat to in order to regroup. Such a plan would be fraught with danger. Mr Assad would almost certainly attack such zones unless he were convinced that his own air defences and armour would be bombed. NATO governments would therefore have to be prepared to go into action to protect them, and Turkey and the Arab League would have to support them. None of those governments is yet prepared to up the ante to that degree. They should. Buffer zones would require more of the West and of Syria’s neighbours than the other options. But they may be necessary to avert a long civil war."

Maliki consolidates power, and critics fail to keep pace‘ (Reidar Visser, The National)

"Alas, on both sides of the political divide are signs that ad hoc solutions are being proposed entirely without reference to the Iraqi constitution. Mr Maliki’s critics think they can simply replace him with someone more likeable without going through the entire constitutional procedure of appointing a new prime ministerial candidate and then forming the next cabinet from scratch. For their part, defenders of the prime minister warn of a possible "popular revolt". At a minimum, it is to be hoped that whoever wins the latest political tug of war will adhere to constitutional procedure in their fight to prevail. A failure to do so is likely to trigger some of the more alarmist scenarios circulating."

Gaddafi’s Torture Centers Continue‘ (Jamie Dettmer, The Daily Beast)

"Libyan revolutionaries captured and killed Muammar Gaddafi more than seven months ago, but the dictator’s brutal tactics and antidemocratic ways live after him. Human-rights workers say that’s true not only within the high walls of the dictator’s former Ain Zara torture center but at other jails and penitentiaries across the country. Abdul is among at least 20 Ain Zara inmates whose relatives accuse guards of subjecting detainees to severe and regular beatings with everything from fists to sticks, metal rods, and chains. Family members say some of the prisoners have been repeatedly beaten on their genitalia, a form of punishment that-in addition to being excruciatingly painful-could leave its victims infertile. Others, according to relatives, have been tortured with Taser-style electroshock weapons. Part of the problem may be that the country’s transitional government is only gradually managing to assert its authority over the patchwork of rival militias that overthrew the Gaddafi regime."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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