Amnesty International urges end to 30 years of 'repressive emergency rule' in Egypt

NEW YORK: Amnesty International on Thursday urged Egyptian authorities to end 30 years of "repressive emergency rule" and allow ordinary Egyptians to fully participate in shaping the country's future.

The human rights organization called for a curb on the sweeping powers of security forces, the release of prisoners of conscience, and for safeguards against torture to be introduced in a new human rights action plan addressed to the country's authorities.

"Egyptians have suffered under a state of emergency for three decades; the decisions made in this momentous period will be critical for Egypt and the region," said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

"Those now in power should view the activism on the streets of Cairo and other cities not as a threat, but as an opportunity to consign the systematic abuses of the past to history. Political transition must involve the people and foster respect for human rights."

Egypt plunged into chaos late last month when hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Cairo and other major cities to demand the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak. Some of them clashed with security forces, killing as many as 300 people and injuring thousands more.

The state of emergency that has endured since President Hosni Mubarak came to power in 1981 has led to widespread human rights violations.

"This is a real test of leadership for the Egyptian authorities. Human rights reform must begin now," said Cordone. "The Egyptians who have come out in force in recent weeks have been waiting 30 years change, and they must now be able to participate meaningfully in shaping their future."

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