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Egypt's 31-year state of emergency ends

May 31, 2012 at 2:37 PM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, May 31 (UPI) -- The ruling military council in Egypt ended the country's 31-year state of emergency Thursday, a move human rights activists lauded.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces' media department released a statement saying it would continue to rule the country until a new president is elected at the end of June, the Egypt Independent reported.

"Out of the armed forces' sense of national and historical responsibility, and in light of the state of emergency's expiration, the application of the provisions of the Constitutional Declaration and the law, and in response to national, popular and political aspirations, the SCAF assures the Egyptian people that it will continue to bear the national responsibility of protecting the homeland and its citizens during this important stage of our nation's history and until power is handed over," the statement said.

The emergency law had been in effect since the 1981 assassination of former president Anwar al-Sadat.

Police had extensive powers of arrest and detention under the state of emergency, which critics said meant security services were never held accountable for torture and extended detention without trial, the Financial Times reported

"The end of the emergency law is hugely significant on the symbolic level," said Heba Morayef, Egypt researcher for Human Rights Watch. "If you think of the generation of the Tahrir Square activists [who overthrew Mr Mubarak], none of them has known Egypt without the emergency law. Its expiry also means all detainees held under the law should be released immediately."

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