Egypt’s Parliament Extended the State of Emergency in North Sinai

Egypt’s parliament extended the state of emergency in North Sinai for three coming months starting 30 January.

The majority in Egypt’s parliament voted in favor of the extension.

In October 2014, the state of emergency was imposed for first time by a presidential decree, and curfew hours have been imposed on residents.

Violence and unrest have escalated in Northern Sinai as the Egyptian military and police forces have been the target of ongoing attacks which have increased after the ouster of Egypt’s first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi by a military coup in 2013.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the militant group responsible for a majority of attacks on military personnel, aligned with the Islamic State group in November 2014, changing its name to “Sinai Province”.

Sinai Province has targeted  Egypt’s security forces in various attacks, mostly roadside bombings, and ambushes, as well as operations against security checkpoints.

As a result, the Egyptian armed forces launched an excessive campaign to uproot ISIS from the eastern peninsula bordering Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

The clashes between the armed forces and Islamic State-affiliated factions have increased ever since, especially in Al-Arish and Sheikh Zuwaid cities.

On the other hand,Sinai people are suffering from human rights violations in the light of extension of the State of emergency in Northern Sinai.

Al-Sisi’s government has destroyed hundreds of homes on the Egyptian side of Rafah last year, which straddles both Sinai and Gaza, in order to create a “buffer zone”.

Human Rights Watch has stated in a report released in 2015 that,” From July 2013 to August 2015, at least 3,255 homes, community buildings, and offices in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with the Gaza Strip have been destroyed by the Egyptian forces. The army has forcefully evicted and displaced families as part of a long-considered plan to establish a “buffer zone” with the Gaza Strip.”

Al-Sisi government has justified the buffer zone saying that it was a part of a policy to break down the smuggling tunnels that would allow fighters and weapons to be transferred from Gaza to the Sinai, a claim never proved.

Furthermore, the residents of Sinai region often complain of heavy-handed tactics by security forces, including collective punishment and extrajudicial killings, following particularly deadly attacks against government forces.

Sinai civilians have increasingly been targeted in the crossfire between security services and Islamic militants.

In addition, the Egyptian government is accused of killing suspects in detention before claiming they were killed in shootouts.

According to a Human Rights Watch, the government said that its counter-terrorism operations in north Sinai killed at least 3,091 “terrorists” between January and July 2015.

According to Arab Organization for Human Rights, a London-based organization, reported that more than 361 people were killed in Sinai by the Egyptian army in 2014 for allegedly being wanted for terrorist activities.

The government releases little information about such operations and threatens journalists who report about them.

In August, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a law by decree that provides for a fine of up to 500,000 Egyptian pounds (US$64,000) and a year-long work ban for anyone who reports information about terrorism that contradict the government.

In addition, nearly 1481 people have been arrested for the same reasons without a shred of evidence or legal due process, the organization said.

Two days ago, Amnesty International urged Egypt to investigate Sinai killings by police.

“Egypt must launch an independent and thorough investigation into the recent killing of 10 men by security forces in the Sinai Peninsula,” said Amnesty International.

This month, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced that the police killed 10 Islamic militants in a shootout in al-Arish.

However, Al-Arish residents said that those who were killed had been in police custody since October.

In this context,Egyptians in al-Arish, a city in northern Sinai,threatened civil disobedience to protest against the extrajudicial killing of 10 youths by security forces.

In a statement issued by Al-Arish residents, they demanded the release of youths detained without charge and the trial of anyone who took part in the alleged extrajudicial killings of their sons.

A video of the meeting that circulated online shows around 100 people gathered in the home of a prominent al-Arish family, according to the Associated Press.

The residents also labelled Egypt’s interior minister “an enemy of the state,” and called on Sinai lawmakers to quit parliament in protest as well as the formation of a “popular committee” that would be tasked with organizing future protests, according to their statement.

Al-Arish leader said at the meeting, “Listen ruler of Egypt [Abdel Fattah al-Sisi], the sons of Al-Arish and the sons of Sinai are one hand.”

He added, “They will select a committee to speak on their behalf. They don’t feel that their sons are safe in your jails. They want all of them released immediately, especially those who have no court rulings issued against them.”

He also said, “They also want to bring to justice all those who killed our sons. Otherwise, we will bring them to justice our way.”

Moreover, the residents threatened to begin a civil disobedience campaign unless their demands were met within seven days.

Amnesty said in a statement that the Egyptian government has used security threats in Sinai as a pretext to clampdown on human rights, claiming that thousands of families had their homes demolished and were forcibly evicted without being provided alternative accommodation.

It also added that hundreds more are held under conditions of enforced disappearance or arbitrarily detained outside  judicial oversight.