Egypt's parliament unanimously approved a nationwide three-month state of emergency on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Under the country's current constitution, this officially puts into effect the state of emergency declared by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the hours that followed the twin Palm Sunday church attacks which left 49 people dead and hundreds injured.

Mada Masr also reported that an amendment to the Emergency Law was  approved during the same session and will now "be sent to the State Council for an advisory legal review, after which it will be sent back to Parliament for a final vote."

The proposed amendment includes two provisions by which detentions can occur without warrants and outside flagrante delicto (being caught in the act).

Many have reported that this latest amendment conflicts with Article 54 of the 2014 Constitution, which states that “except in cases of in flagrante delicto, no person may be arrested, searched, detained or have any restrictions imposed on their freedom except with a court order that is necessitated by investigations."

What does an emergency law really mean?

Broadly speaking, the approved measures are designed to aid authorities in rooting out terror networks.

In his address to parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail further explained what this entails.

"The emergency law is aimed at enemies of the homeland and citizens, and it will grant state apparatuses greater ability, flexibility, and speed to confront an evil enemy that has not hesitated to kill and wreak havoc without justification or discrimination," he said.

While parliament officials reassured the public that this move will only affect suspected criminals and not civilians, many in Egypt are still concerned.

This is because a thirty year emergency state lifted after Mubarak stepped down in 2011 is making a comeback. 

To many, this signals more illegal trials, crackdowns on media, personal freedom and freedom of expression brought on by the exceptional powers that a state of emergency grants to Egypt's president.

In addition, the proposed amendment also means that a 2013 constitutional ruling has now been overturned.

According to Tarek Abdelal, a lawyer at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the 2013 ruling "which stripped the president of the power to arrest, detain and search civilians without abiding by the Criminal Procedures Code," is no longer in effect.

How is a state of emergency imposed?

According to Al Ahram English, the 2014 constitution dictates that an emergency state can be imposed under the following conditions:

  1. The President must consult with the cabinet and seek approval.
  2. The state of emergency must be approved by the Parliament.
  3. The state of emergency should be imposed for a period that does not exceed three months.
  4. If an extension is required, a new parliament vote must approve of it.

A brief history of emergency law in Egypt

Egypt's first state of emergency was imposed in 1914 under the British Mandate. 

Following the establishment of Egypt as a republic in 1952, a state of emergency was again imposed in 1956, and lifted in 1964.

This was followed by another, declared during the Arab-Israeli war between 1967 and 1980.

The assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981, plunged the country into yet another state of emergency. This one was repeatedly extended throughout the thirty year rule of Sadat's successor Hosni Mubarak and is considered the longest in Egypt's history. Following the 2011 uprising, it was lifted by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in May 2012. 

The state of emergency resurfaced for 6 months in 2013 and has now made a return for at least 3 months.