Head of government Ahmed Nazif
Death penalty retentionist
Population 83 million
Life expectancy 69.9 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 42/39 per 1,000
Adult literacy 66.4 per cent
The government continued to use state of emergency powers to detain peaceful critics and opponents as well as people suspected of security offences or involvement in terrorism. Some were held under administrative detention orders; others were sentenced to prison terms after unfair trials before military courts. Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread in police cells, security police detention centres and prisons, and in most cases were committed with impunity. The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly were curtailed; journalists and bloggers were among those detained or prosecuted. Hundreds of families residing in Cairo's "unsafe areas" were forcibly evicted; some were left homeless, others were relocated but without security of tenure. Men perceived to be gay continued to be prosecuted under a "debauchery" law. At least 19 people seeking to cross into Israel were shot dead by border guards, apparently while posing no threat. At least 269 people were sentenced to death, and at least five were executed.
Egypt remained under a national state of emergency in force continuously since 1981 and most recently renewed in May 2008. In April, the government said it had completed drafting all but one section of a new, long-awaited anti-terrorism law, which was expected to pave the way for the lifting of the state of emergency. However, it was feared that the law might effectively retain emergency provisions that have facilitated human rights violations. The draft was not available by the end of 2009.
In January, there were demonstrations against the Israeli military offensive in Gaza and the Egyptian government's response to it. The authorities kept the border with the Gaza Strip closed for much of the year, including during the offensive thereby preventing Palestinians from seeking refuge in Egypt. The authorities allowed passage to the sick and wounded, and goods through the border. In December, the authorities announced that they were constructing a steel wall along the borders with Gaza in order to prevent smuggling. They refused permission to over 1,000 people from 43 countries who converged in Cairo to march to Gaza with humanitarian aid to mark the first anniversary of the Israeli military offensive; many of them were assaulted by the police.
In February, a bomb attack in Cairo killed one woman and injured 25 other people, mostly foreign tourists. In May, the authorities attributed the attack to a group associated with al-Qa'ida and the Palestinian Islamic Army, an armed group.
Former presidential candidate Ayman Nour was released from prison in February on health grounds. in November, the authorities prevented him from travelling to the USA.
There were sporadic clashes between Coptic Christians and Muslims in which several people were killed and others injured. In March, the homes of Baha'is were burned in al-Shuraniyya, a village in Sohag Governorate, reportedly after some media incited hatred and violence against Baha'is.
In April, the parliament passed the Law for the Care of Mental Patients to provide safeguards for the rights of people with mental illness.
In June, the number of seats in the parliament's lower house was increased from 454 to 518, 64 of which were reserved for women to promote greater participation by women in public life.