On November 12, Egypt’s administrative court ordered the end of the country’s state of emergency, two days before it was set to expire on November 14.
Emergency rule has a long history within Egypt’s authoritarian political system. For decades, it was used by the regime to provide legal cover for its efforts to suppress political opponents.
The most recent iteration was implemented by interim president Adly Mansour on August 14, following the security forces’ violent dispersal of pro-Morsi sit-ins, which ultimately left hundreds dead.
International actors, including the UN and the United States, praised the court’s November 12 decision. Revolutionary groups such as the April 6 Movement welcomed the news as an opportunity for the country to move forward.
The reality, however, is that ending the state of emergency changes very little about Egypt’s political trajectory.
Terrorism and protest laws currently under consideration by the interim government could reestablish a legal basis to limit democratic rights, as both the United States and the UN noted in their statements.
But Egypt’s problems go deeper than what the law says the government can and cannot do. Whether the legal justification is there or not, abuses will persist.
The government’s political opponents will continue to be detained without legitimate cause. Conditions will be horrible, and torture will be commonplace.
Protesters will still be suppressed violently. Journalists and human rights activists will be harassed and intimidated for trying to do their jobs. State media will brand the government’s opponents as traitors.
All these violations will continue unabated because of the political system’s underlying power structure, in which the military is all-powerful and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) is resurgent.
As long as the status quo remains, the security forces will act with impunity, avoiding accountability and doing just as they please.
Even in the best-case scenario, security sector reform in Egypt was always going to be a long process. In addition to time, it would also require significant societal support, bold leadership, buy-in from the military and the MOI, and the ability to overcome resistant factions.
Under Mohamed Morsi’s administration, progress was halting at best. A case could be made, however, that the issue was headed in the right direction, at least initially.
Unfortunately, June 30 provided reactionaries in the security forces with the chance they needed to reassert themselves.
Now that the military and the MOI are back in the driver’s seat, reining in the security sector will be harder than ever, regardless of what the law might say.