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State of emergency


State of emergency

After natural disasters such as this earthquake in El Salvador, some governments declare a state of emergency.

A government or division of government (i.e. on a municipal, provincial/state level) may declare that their area is in a state of emergency. This means that the government can suspend and/or change some functions of the executive, the legislative and/or the judiciary during this period of time. It alerts citizens to change their normal behavior and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans. A government can declare a state of emergency during a time of natural or human-made disaster, during a period of civil unrest, or following a declaration of war or situation of international/internal armed conflict. Justitium is its equivalent in Roman law.

It can also be used as a rationale (or pretext) for suspending rights and freedoms guaranteed under a country's constitution or basic law. The procedure for and legality of doing so varies by country.


  • Relationship with International law 1
  • Use and viewpoints 2
    • Abuse 2.1
  • Law in selected countries 3
    • Argentina 3.1
    • Australia 3.2
    • Brazil 3.3
    • Canada 3.4
    • Denmark 3.5
    • Egypt 3.6
    • France 3.7
    • Germany 3.8
    • Hong Kong 3.9
    • Hungary 3.10
    • Iceland 3.11
    • India 3.12
    • Ireland 3.13
    • Macau 3.14
    • Malaysia 3.15
    • New Zealand 3.16
    • Nigeria 3.17
    • Pakistan 3.18
    • Romania 3.19
    • South Africa 3.20
    • Spain 3.21
    • Switzerland 3.22
    • Trinidad and Tobago 3.23
    • Turkey 3.24
    • United Kingdom 3.25
    • United States 3.26
  • Examples 4
    • Ongoing 4.1
    • Past states of emergency 4.2
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Relationship with International law

Under international law, rights and freedoms may be suspended during a state of emergency; for example, a government can detain persons and hold them without trial. All rights that can be derogated from are listed in the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. Non-derogable rights cannot be suspended.[1] Non-derogable rights are listed in Article 4 of the ICCPR, they include the rights to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and to freedom from torture and/or ill-treatment.[2]

Some countries have made it illegal to modify emergency law or the constitution during the emergency; other countries have the freedom to change any legislation or rights based constitutional frameworks at any time that the legislative chooses to do so. Constitutions are contracts between the government and the private individuals of that country. The International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is an international law document signed by states. Therefore, the Covenant only applies to persons acting in an official capacity, not private individuals. However, signatories to the Covenant are expected to integrate it into national legislation. The state of emergency (within the ICCPR framework) must be publicly declared and the Secretary-General of the United Nations must be contacted immediately, to declare the reason for the emergency, the date on which the emergency is to start, the derogations that may take place, with the timeframe of the emergency and the date in which the emergency is expected to finish. Although this is common protocol stipulated by the ICCPR often this is not strictly followed; enforcement is better regulated by European Convention of human rights.[3]

Use and viewpoints

Though fairly uncommon in democracies, dictatorial regimes often declare a state of emergency that is prolonged indefinitely for the life of the regime, or for extended periods of time so that derogations can be used to override human rights of their citizens usually protected by the International Covenant on Civil and political rights.[4] In some situations, martial law is also declared, allowing the military greater authority to act. In other situations, emergency is not declared and de facto measures taken or decree-law adopted by the government. Ms. Nicole Questiaux (France) and Mr. Leandro Despouy (Argentina), two consecutive United Nations Special Rapporteurs have recommended to the international community to adopt the following "principles" to be observed during a state or de facto situation of emergency : Principles of Legality, Proclamation, Notification, Time Limitation, Exceptional Threat, Proportionality, Non-Discrimination, Compatibility, Concordance and Complementarity of the Various Norms of International Law (cf. "Question of Human Rights and State of Emergency", E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/19, at Chapter II; see also état d'exception).

Article 4 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), permits states to derogate from certain rights guaranteed by the ICCPR in "time of public emergency". Any measures derogating from obligations under the Covenant, however, must only be to the extent required by the exigencies of the situation, and must be announced by the State Party to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The European Convention on Human Rights[5] and American Convention on Human Rights[6] have similar derogatory provisions. No derogation is permitted to the International Labour Conventions.

Some civil and political rights, producing his interpretation of homo sacer.[7]


The state of emergency can be abused by being invoked, for example, to allow a state to suppress internal opposition without having to respect human rights. An example was the August 1991 attempted coup in the Soviet Union (USSR) where the coup leaders invoked a state of emergency; the failure of the coup led to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Derogations by states having ratified or acceded to binding international agreements such as the ICCPR, the American and European Conventions on Human Rights and the International Labour Conventions are monitored by independent expert committees, regional Courts and other State Parties.[8]

Law in selected countries


The Constitution, which has been amended several times, has always allowed for a state of emergency (literally estado de sitio, state of siege), to be declared if the constitution or the authorities it creates are endangered by internal unrest or foreign attack. This provision was much abused during dictatorships, with long-lasting states of siege giving the government a free hand to suppress opposition (as of 2010 state of emergencies had been declared 52 times by democratic and dictatorial governments, starting in 1854 shortly after the constitution came into force[9]). The National Reorganization Process, restricts abuse of the state of emergency by requiring any signatory nation declaring such a state to inform the other signatories of its circumstances and duration, and what rights are affected.


State-of-emergency legislation differs in each state of Australia.

In Victoria, the premier can declare a state of emergency if there is a threat to employment, safety or public order. The declaration expires after 30 days, and a resolution of either the upper or lower House of Parliament may revoke it earlier. Under the Public Safety Preservation Act, a declared state of emergency allows the premier to immediately make any desired regulations to secure public order and safety. However, these regulations expire if Parliament does not agree to continue them within 7 days. Also, under the Essential Services Act, the premier (or delegate) may operate or prohibit operation of, as desired, any essential service (e.g., transport, fuel, power, water, gas).

In regards to Emergency Management, regions (usually on a local government area basis) that have been affected by a natural disaster are the responsibility of the state, until that state declares a State of Emergency where access to the Federal Emergency Fund becomes available to help respond to and recover from natural disasters. A State of Emergency does not apply to the whole state, but rather districts or shires, where essential services may have been disrupted.

See also, Exceptional circumstances; a term most commonly used in Australia with regard to emergency relief payments.


Extreme act that, in Brazil (Estado de Sítio or Estado de Exceção, in Portuguese), can be declared on the following circumstances:

  • Serious disturbance with national impact;
  • Inefficiency on the Defense State previously decreed;
  • Declaration of war;
  • Response to foreign armed aggression.

The state of emergency could last for 30 days, being possible to extend it for more days in case of persistence of the reasons of exceptionality.

Only the President is able to declare or prorogate this State; after receiving formal authorization from National Congress and after consultation with the National Security Council or the Council of the Republic.


The federal government of Canada can use the Emergencies Act to invoke a state of emergency. A national state of emergency automatically expires after 90 days, unless extended by the Governor-in-Council.[10] There are different levels of emergencies: Public Welfare Emergency, Public Order Emergency, International Emergency, and War Emergency.[11]

The Emergencies Act replaced the War Measures Act in 1988. The War Measures Act was invoked three times in Canadian history, most controversially during the FLQ Crisis. During World War I (against threat of Communism from 1914 to 1920) and World War II (perceived threat by Japanese Canadians after Pearl Harbor from 1942 to 1945) the Act was enacted for the duration of both of the two world wars.

Under the current Emergency Act a state of emergency can also be declared by provincial, territorial, and municipal governments.[12] Since Canada's federal government and any of its provincial governments can suspend for five years at a time the Charter rights to fundamental freedoms in section 2, to legal rights in sections 7 through 14, and to equality rights in section 15 by a simple majority vote of the legislature which invokes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms' override clause, section 33, emergency powers can always be very easily created even without using the Emergency Act.


The police chief in a district can impose a zone in which people can be body searched without a specific suspicion. Such an order must be issued in writing, published, and imposed for a limited period. The police law (article 6) regulates this area.[13] The normal procedure calls for assisting the suspect to a private area and stripping them.[14]

If the police feel that a situation involving a crowd of people can get out of hand, they can order the assembly to be dissolved and "pass the street" in the name of the king. People that after three such warnings are still part of the crowd can then without further warning be subjugated to mass arrest. All people arrested can then be detained for 24 hours without charging them or taking them for a judge. This is called a precluding arrest.


political prisoners run as high as 30,000.[17] The emergency rule expired on May 31, 2012, and was put back in place in January 2013.[18][19] Egypt declared a month-long national emergency on 14 August 2013.[20]

The Egyptian presidency announced a one-month state of emergency across the country on 14/08/2013 and ordered the armed forces to help the Interior Ministry enforce security. The announcement made on state TV followed deadly countrywide clashes between supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi and the security forces.[21]


Three main dispositions concern various kind of "state of emergency" in France: article 16 of the Constitution of 1958 allows, in time of crisis, "extraordinary powers" to the president. Article 36 of the same constitution regulates "state of siege" (état de siège). Finally, the April 3, 1955 Act allows the proclamation, by the Council of Ministers, of the "state of emergency" (état d'urgence).[22] The distinction between article 16 and the 1955 Act concerns mainly the distribution of powers: whereas in article 16, the executive power basically suspend the regular procedures of the Republic, the 1955 Act permits a twelve-day state of emergency, after which a new law extending the emergency must be voted by the Parliament. These dispositions have been used at various times, in 1955, 1958, 1961, 1988 and 2005 (see below).

The state of emergency in France is framed by the Constitution of 1958, which states that it can be decreed by the Président de la république in the Council of Ministers, but must be confirmed by Parliament in order to be held after 12 days. State of emergency gives authorities the power to:

  • Regulate or forbid circulation and gathering in some areas (including by the use of curfew)
  • Close places of gathering
  • Conduct house-to-house searches at any time without judicial oversight
  • Censorship

It may also give the military authority the power to act in place of civilian authorities, if a decree specifies it explicitly. It is unclear, however, how some of the legal possibilities can be implemented due to various legal changes since the 1950s.

Article 16 of the Constitution gives the head of government "extraordinary powers" in exceptional cases, leading to an effective "state of exception":

When the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the nation, the integrity of its territory, or the fulfillment of its international commitments are under grave and immediate threat and when the proper functioning of the constitutional governmental authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take the measures demanded by these circumstances after official consultation with the Prime Minister, the Presidents of the Assemblies, and the Constitutional Council. He shall inform the nation of these measures by a message. These measures must be prompted by a will to ensure within the shortest possible time that the constitutional governmental authorities have the means of fulfilling their duties. The Constitutional Council shall be consulted with regard to such measures. Parliament shall meet ipso jure. The National Assembly may not be dissolved during the exercise of emergency powers.

The conditions are both that the state is confronted to exceptional circumstances and that the regular institutions are disrupted and cannot effectively govern.[23] This amendment to the Constitution of the Fifth Republic has been qualified as "liberticide" by critics.[23] Invoked on 23 April 1961 during the Algerian War; normal functioning of institutions was quickly restored.[23]

In the judgment Rubin de Servens of March 2, 1962, the Conseil d'État judged that he could not himself invoke article 16, as that constituted an "act of government". Furthermore, the State Council considered that it could only pronounce on rulings which were not legislative acts carried out during this period. Thus, a legislative measure (although the role of Parliament is not specified, just that it is not to be dissolved) which breaches fundamental liberties cannot be appealed against before the Conseil d'État.[23]

Article 36 of the Constitution is concerned with the state of siege (in French), which can be decreed by the Council of Ministers for a period of twelve days which can only be extended with the approval of the Parliament. A state of siege may be declared in case of an "imminent peril resulting from a foreign war [guerre étrangère, or simply "war"] or an armed insurrection (une insurrection à main armée).[24] Military authorities may take police powers if they judge it necessary. Fundamental liberties may be restricted, such as the right of association, legalization of searches in private places day and night, the power to expel people who have been condemned for common law matters or people who do not have the right of residence in the territory, etc.

Since 1955 a state of emergency has been decreed five times:

  • In 1955 in Algeria due to independentist unrest
  • In 1958 due to the uprising in Algeria
  • In 1961 after the Generals' putsch (invocation of article 16 from April 23 to September 29, 1961[23])
  • In 1984 in New Caledonia due to independentist troubles
  • During the 2005 civil unrest in France President Jacques Chirac declared a state of emergency on November 8, 2005. It was extended for three months on November 16 by the Parliament, which was dominated by the UMP majority. On December 10 France's highest administrative body, the Council of State, ruled that the three-month state of emergency decreed to guarantee calm following unrest was legal. It rejected a complaint from 74 law professors and the Green party, declaring that the conditions that led to the unrest (which began on October 27), the rapid spread of violence, and the possibility that it could recur justified the state of emergency. The complaint challenged the state of emergency's necessity and said it compromised fundamental liberties.[25][26][27]

In 1972 the Common Program of the Left (issued from an alliance between the Socialist Party and the Communist Party) proposed to repeal article 16. François Mitterrand's program in 1981 did not include this proposition. The Socialist government of Pierre Bérégovoy included a reform of this article in its project of Constitutional reform in 1992, but the project was not implemented. Also in 1992, the Vedel Commission created by François Mitterrand proposed to give to the Conseil Constitutionnel (Constitutional Council), on the concerted initiative of the President of the Republic and the presidents of the Assemblies, the mission to determine that the conditions required for the use of article 16 were in fact met.[23]

On July 23, 2008 a constitutional act was passed which, among other amendments, added a paragraph to article 16 of the Constitution[28] which stated that after 30 days the Constitutional Council can be requested to determine whether the conditions that justified the use of article 16 are still current; the ruling is public. At any time beyond 60 days the Council rules on this issue without the need for a referral.


The Weimar Republic constitution allowed states of emergency under Article 48 to deal with rebellions. Article 48 was often invoked during the 14-year life of the Republic, sometimes for no reason other than to allow the government to act when it was unable to obtain a parliamentary majority.

After the February 27, 1933 Reichstag fire, an attack blamed on the communists, Adolf Hitler declared a state of emergency using Article 48, and then had President von Hindenburg sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, which suspended the Weimar Constitution for the whole duration of the Third Reich: the Weimar Constitution was never actually repealed by Nazi Germany, but "indefinitely suspended". After the prohibition of the Communist Party of Germany on March 1, 1933, the Nazi Party were to free to vote in the March 23, 1933 Enabling Act, which enabled Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the Reichstag. These two laws implemented the Gleichschaltung, the Nazis' institution of totalitarianism.

In the postwar Federal Republic of Germany the Emergency Acts state that some of the basic constitutional rights of the Basic Law may be limited in case of a state of defence, a state of tension, or an internal state of emergency or disaster (catastrophe). These amendments to the constitution were passed on May 30, 1968 despite fierce opposition by the so-called extra-parliamentary opposition (see German student movement for details).

Hong Kong

The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress can declare a state of emergency and deploy troops from the People's Liberation Army Hong Kong Garrison under the Law of the People's Republic of China on the garrisoning of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Chief Executive of Hong Kong along with the Executive Council can prohibit public gatherings, issue curfew orders, prohibit the movement of vessels or aircraft and appoint special constable all under Chapter 245 ("Public Order Ordinance") of Hong Kong Law.

Since 1997, no emergency measures have been enacted. Prior to that date, emergency measures were used for four major incidents:


According to the Hungarian Constitution, the National Assembly of Hungary can declare state of emergency in case of armed rebellion or natural or industrial disaster. It expires after 30 days, but can be extended. Most civil rights can be suspended, but basic human rights (such as the right to live, the ban of torture, and freedom of religion) cannot.

During state of emergency, the Parliament cannot be disbanded.


The Icelandic constitution provides no mechanism for state of emergency nor martial law.


In India, an external state of emergency was declared two times during wars:

In 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of internal emergency after she was indicted in a corruption scandal and ordered to vacate her seat in the Indian Parliament, allowing herself to rule by decree until 1977. It all started after maverick socialist Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan, who had been defeated in parliamentary election by Indira Gandhi, lodged cases of election fraud and use of state machinery for election purposes against Mrs. Indira Gandhi in the Allahabad High Court. On 12 June 1975, Justice Jagmohanlal Sinha of the Allahabad High Court found the Prime Minister guilty on the charge of misuse of government machinery for her election campaign. The court declared her election null and void and unseated her from her seat in the Lok Sabha. The court also banned her from contesting any election for an additional six years. Some serious charges such as bribing voters and election malpractices were dropped and she was held responsible for misusing the government machinery, and found guilty on charges such as using the state police to build a dais, availing the services of a government officer, Yashpal Kapoor (IAS), during the elections before he had resigned from his position, and use of electricity from the state electricity department.

Protests led by J.P.Narayan, Raj Narain, Satyendra Narayan Sinha and Morarji Desai flooded the streets of Delhi close to the Parliament building and the Prime Minister's residence.The persistent efforts of Indira Gandhi relaxed the emergency and released dissidents.

Mrs. Gandhi called new elections and freed her critics, Mr.Raj Narain and his colleagues rode a popular wave of unrest to defeat her and her Government. Raj Narain won decisively in the Prime Minister's home constituency of Rae Bareli. The victory of Mr Raj Narain over Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi in 1977 parliamentary elections in Rai Bareilly (U.P-India) led to the fall of long era of Congress led central government in India, after independence and brought everlasting change in political equations thereafter in Indian politics, even today.


In Ireland a state of national emergency may be declared by invoking Article 28 of the Constitution of Ireland. According to Article 28.3.3., "no article of the Constitution may be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas which is expressed to be for the purpose of securing the public safety and the preservation of the State in time of war or armed rebellion, or to nullify any act done or purporting to be done in time of war or armed rebellion in pursuance of any such law". The time of war or armed rebellion includes actions outside the state itself, and is not limited in time to the duration of the war or armed rebellion.

A state of emergency was declared in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II, though Ireland was not a participant (The period was and is referred to as The Emergency in Ireland). This state of emergency was not technically lifted until 1976, and was succeeded by a second state of emergency to deal with the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the recent assassination of the British ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart Biggs. The Troubles lasted until the IRA ceasefire in 1994.

The Emergency Powers Act 1939 granted the government the power to govern through executive decree's called 'Emergency Powers Orders' that could cover any aspect of national life.

Some emergency powers do not require an act of parliament to pass, for example Section V of the Offences against the State Act allows the government to declare that the section (which covers internment, arrest and search without a judicial warrant) is in effect by statutory instrument, and empowers any minister of state to issue an arrest warrant and determine how long the person in question is to be held for.

The only limitation placed on the government during a state of emergency (as with peacetime) is a prohibition on capital punishment.


The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress can declare a state of emergency and deploy troops from the People's Liberation Army Macau Garrison under the Article 14 of Macau's Basic Law on the defence of the Macau Special Administrative Region.

The Chief Executive of Macau can use the Macau national security law to prohibit public gatherings, issue curfew orders, prohibit other activities perceived to be a threat against the Region or China.

Since 1999 no emergency measure have been enacted. Prior to 1999 emergency measures have been used for 1 major incident:


In Malaysia, if the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is satisfied that a grave emergency exists whereby the security, or the economic life, or public order in the Federation or any part thereof is threatened, he may issue a Proclamation of Emergency making therein a declaration to that effect.[29]

In the history of Malaysia, a state of emergency was declared by the then-colonial government of Britain. The state of emergency lasted from 1948 until 1960 to deal with the communists led by Chin Peng.

States of emergency were also declared during the Konfrontasi in 1962, the 1966 Sarawak constitutional crisis and 1977 Kelantan Emergency.

When a race riot broke out on May 13, 1969, a state of emergency was declared.

On August 11, 2005 a state of emergency was announced for the world's 12th largest port, Port Klang and the district of Kuala Selangor after air pollution there reached dangerous levels (defined as a value greater than 500 on the Air Pollution Index or API).

Thiery Rommel, the European Commission's envoy to Malaysia, told Reuters by telephone on November 13, 2007 (the last day of his mission) that, "Today, this country still lives under (a state of) emergency."[30] Although not officially proclaimed as a state of emergency, the Emergency Ordinance and the Internal Security Act had allowed detention for years without trial.

On June 23, 2013 a state of emergency was declared by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for Muar and Ledang, Johor as smoke from land-clearing fires in Indonesia pushed air pollution index to above 750. This is the first time in years that air quality has dipped to hazardous level with conditions worsening in as dry weather persists and fires rage in Sumatra.[31]

New Zealand

The Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002 gives the government and local city council the power to issue a state of emergency, either over the entire country or within a specific region.[32] This may suspend ordinary work and essential services if need be. The state of emergency in New Zealand expires on the commencement of the seventh day after the date on which it was declared, unless it is extended. However, the minister of civil defence or local mayor may lift the state of emergency after an initial review of the region's status.


In Nigeria, a state of emergency is usually declared in times of great civil unrest. In recent years, it has specifically been implemented in reaction to terrorist attacks on Nigerians by the Islamic jihadist group Boko Haram.

On 14 May 2013, Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency for the entire northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.[34] A more limited state of emergency had been declared on 31 December 2011 in parts of Yobe, Borno, Plateau and Niger states. This earlier declaration included the temporary shutdown of the international borders in those regions.[35]


In Pakistan, a state of emergency was declared five times in its history:

The first three were regarded as the imposition of direct martial law. In 2007 a 'state of emergency' was declared.


In Romania, there are two types of states of emergency, each designed for a different type of situation.

  • State of alert (Stare de alertă in Romanian): Non-military, can be enforced by a prefect. Roadblocks are enforced. Any utilitarian vehicle or equipment can be temporarily used by the state, without any restriction. Evacuation is not mandatory, unless extreme circumstances apply. Only EMS, Police and firefighting personnel are required to intervene. This situation can be enforced in case of natural disasters or civil unrest.
  • State of emergency (stare de urgentă in Romanian): Can only be enforced by the President of Romania with approval from Parliament. The military becomes the upper form of control in the country (under the rule of the president). The civilian population is subject to strict regulations, imposed by the type of emergency. All private and public non-crucial activities are suspended. Essential services might be disrupted. This situation can be enforced in case of extreme circumstances, such as a war.
  • Special zone of public safety (Zonă specială de siguranță publică in Romanian): Administrative, can be enforced by local police. This implies installation of road check-points and higher numbers in police and gendarmes/ riot police presence, patrolling the area. There is also a ban that restricts the right to travel for people in the area; any vehicle and individual transiting the zone are subject to screening.[36][37]

The most well-known event in which the state of emergency has been enforced was because of 1977 Vrancea earthquake.

The last instance in which the special zone of public safety was enforced was in December 8, 2013-ongoing, in Pungești, Vaslui following civil unrest in Pungești from Chevron's plans to begin exploring shale-gas in the village.[38] According to police officials, the special security zone will be maintained as long as there is conflict in the area that poses a threat to Chevron’s operations.[36] This special security zone has faced domestic and international criticism for alleged human-rights abuses.

South Africa

States of emergency in South Africa are governed by section 37 of the Constitution and by the State of Emergency Act, 1997. The President may declare a state of emergency only when "the life of the nation is threatened by war, invasion, general insurrection, disorder, natural disaster or other public emergency" and if the ordinary laws and government powers are not sufficient to restore peace and order. The declaration is made by proclamation in the Government Gazette and may only apply from the time of publication, not retroactively. It can only continue for 21 days unless the National Assembly grants an extension, which may be for at most three months at a time. The High Courts have the power, subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court, to determine the validity of the declaration of a state of emergency.[39]

During a state of emergency the President has the power to make emergency regulations "necessary or expedient" to restore peace and order and end the emergency. This power can be delegated to other authorities. Emergency measures can violate the Bill of Rights, but only to a limited extent. Some rights are inviolable, including amongst others the rights to life and to human dignity; the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of race, sex or religion; the prohibition of torture or inhuman punishment; and the right of accused people to a fair trial. Any violation of a constitutional right must be strictly required by the emergency. Emergency measures may not indemnify the government or individuals for illegal actions. They may impose criminal penalties, but not exceeding three years' imprisonment. They may not require military service beyond that required by the ordinary laws governing the defence force. An emergency measure may be disapproved by the National Assembly, in which case it lapses, and no emergency measure may interfere with the elections, powers or sittings of Parliament or the provincial legislatures. The courts have the power to determine the validity of any emergency measure.

The constitution places strict limits on any detention without trial during a state of emergency. A friend or family member of the detainee must be informed, and the name and place of detention must be published in the Government Gazette. The detainee must have access to a doctor and a legal representative. He or she must be brought before a court within at most ten days, for the court to determine whether the detention is necessary, and if not released may demand repeated review every ten days. At the court review the detainee must be allowed legal representation and must be allowed to appear in person. The provisions on detention without trial do not apply to prisoners of war in an international conflict; instead they must be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and other international law.


In Spain, there are three degrees of state of emergency (estado de emergencia in Spanish): alarma (alarm or alert), excepción (exception[al circumstance]) and sitio (siege). They are named by the Organic Law).

On December 4, 2010, the first state of alert was declared following the air traffic controllers strike. It was the first time since the Francisco Franco's regime that a state of emergency was declared.[40]


According to Art. 185 of the Swiss Federal Constitution The Federal Council (Bundesrat) can call up in their own competence an army of max. 4000 military personnel for three weeks to safeguard inner or outer security (called Federal Intervention or Federal Execution, respectively). A higher amount of soldiers or a longer duration is subject to parliamentary decision. For deployments within Switzerland the principle of subsidiarity rules: As a first step, unrests have to be overcome with the aide of cantonal police units.

Trinidad and Tobago

A state of emergency was declared was in 1970 during the Black Power Revolution by then Prime Minister Eric Williams. During the attempted state coup by the Jamaat al Muslimeen against the NAR government of the then Prime Minister A. N. R. Robinson,[41][42] a state of emergency was declared during the coup attempt and for a period after the coup.

On August 4, 1995, a state of emergency was declared to remove the Speaker of the House Occah Seepaul by Prime Minister Patrick Manning during a constitutional crisis.[43] The government had attempted to remove the speaker via a no-confidence motion, which failed. The state of emergency was used to remove the speaker using the emergency powers granted.[44]

The Prime Minister the country's Parliament as required by the Constitution on September 2, 2011 and passed by the required simple majority of the House of Representatives. On September 4 the Parliament has extended the State Of Emergency for a further 3 months and ended in December 2011.


Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 the military conducted three coup d'états and announced martial law. Martial law between 1978 and 1983 was replaced by a state of emergency that lasted until November 2002.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the British Sovereign, the Privy Council, or the Prime Minister is able to proclaim emergency regulations under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 in case of any seriously fatal threats to their human welfare, their human society, and their environment, such as warfare or terrorism. These regulations last for seven days unless confirmed otherwise by Parliament. A state of emergency was last invoked in 1974 by Prime Minister Edward Heath in response to increasing industrial action.

United States

The Constitution explicitly provides some emergency powers:

  • Congress may authorize the government to call forth the militia to execute the laws, suppress an insurrection or repel an invasion.
  • Congress may authorize the government to suspend consideration of writs of habeas corpus "when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it."
  • Felony charges may be brought without presentment or grand jury indictment in cases arising "in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger."
  • A state government may engage in war without Congress's approval if "actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay."

Aside from these, many provisions of law exist in various jurisdictions, which take effect only upon an executive declaration of emergency. The National Emergencies Act regulates this process at the federal level. It requires the President to specifically identify the provisions activated and to renew the declaration annually so as to prevent an arbitrarily broad or open-ended emergency. In all such cases, the government must continue to act within the limits of the law and constitution.[45]

A state governor or local mayor may declare a state of emergency within his or her jurisdiction. This is common at the state level in response to natural disasters. The Federal Emergency Management Agency maintains a system of assets, personnel and training to respond to such incidents.

The 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act allows the government to freeze of assets, limit trade and confiscate of property in response to an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the United States that originates substantially outside of it. As of 2015 more than thirty emergencies under the IEEPA remain active regarding various subjects, the oldest of which was declared in 1979 with regard to the government of Iran.



  • The United States declared a national emergency in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks that remains in effect. This emergency suspends certain provisions of law that limit the size of the military and the duration of military service.[46]
  • The Philippines declared a state of calamity on December 20, 2011, following the onslaught of Tropical Storm Washi or Sendong which led to 1080 fatalities, 1079 people missing and nearly 1 billion pesos worth of damage to infrastructure and agriculture, in order to institute price freeze on heavily affected areas and to allow for the release of calamity funds.[47][48]
  • Myanmar declared a state of emergency in Meiktila due to ongoing sectarian violence.[49]
  • Thailand declared state of emergency for 60 days in Bangkok and surrounding areas as a result of mass protests aimed at overthrowing the government.
  • Liberia declared state of emergency for 90 days due to an outbreak of the fatal disease Ebola.

Past states of emergency

  • Governor Jerry Brown of California declared a state of emergency in September 2015 as a result of widespread wildfires in the northern part of the state.
  • Maryland declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard of the United States on April 27, 2015, as a direct result of the rioting and widespread physical violence during protesting in Baltimore due to the Death of Freddie Gray.
  • Egypt had been under a nearly-continuous state of emergency (Martial Law) since 1967 (interrupted for 18 months in 1980-81); the People's Assembly renews it every two to three years.[15][17][50] The state of emergency, expired May 31, 2012 .[51]
  • Tunisia declared state of emergency (Martial Law) January 2011, following unrest from economic issues.[52]
  • Late August 2011 - Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine declared states of emergency because of Hurricane Irene.[53]
  • November 28, 2011 - Slovakia declared a state of emergency for numerous hospitals, due to mass medicare workers resignation.[54]
  • April 15, 2011 - States of emergency were declared in the United States for 26 Oklahoma Counties, 14 Mississippi Counties, and all counties in Alabama after a severe weather outbreak caused significant damage on April 14–15 to these areas.[55][56][57]
  • April 16, 2011 - States of emergency were declared in the cities of Raleigh, North Carolina, Fayetteville, North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, as well as Cumberland County, North Carolina, and the entire state of North Carolina following a severe weather outbreak that caused 62 reported tornadoes within the state.[58]
  • March 15, 2011 - Bahrain declared a state of emergency on 15 March 2011 and asked the military to reassert its control over the capital, Manama, as clashes between Shia and Sunni groups spread across the country. Bahrain has been gripped by deepening political unrest and widespread protests for over a month, with the Shia majority and some Sunni liberals calling for democracy and an end to discrimination.[59]
  • February 24, 2011 - Bolivia declared a national state of emergency on 24 February 2011, because of floods that have been affecting the nine departments in Bolivia, thousands of people have been left homeless.
  • February 22, 2011 - New Zealand declares State of Emergency in the city of Christchurch on February 22, 2011 after another powerful 6.3 magnitude earthquake damaged the city and surrounding areas. Civil Defence Minister John Carter declared a national state of emergency at 11.28 am on February 23, 2011.
  • January — February, 2011 - Queensland declared a state of disaster in a majority of the state during the 2011 Queensland Floods.
  • October 5, 2010 - Hungary declares state of emergency due to a sludge flood, caused by an accident in Ajka at the local aluminia plant, killing at least four people and causing a long-lasting natural disaster.
  • September 30, 2010 - A state of emergency was declared in Ecuador due to a coup by armed forces.
  • September 4, 2010 - Christchurch City Council declared State of Emergency on September 4, 2010 after a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake damaged the city and surrounding areas. The state of emergency invoked provisions of the Civil Defense Emergency Management Act 2002. The State of Emergency was lifted 12 days later on September 16 upon passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Response and Recovery Act 2010.
  • February 6, 2010 Pittsburgh declared a State of Emergency on February 6, 2010 after the February 5–6, 2010 North American blizzard.
  • October 1, 2009 - Indonesia was in a state of emergency due to 2009 Sumatra earthquakes.
  • September 26, 2009 - A "state of calamity" for Metro Manila and 25 other nearby provinces in the Philippines was declared due to heavy flooding caused by Typhoon Ketsana (Local name: Ondoy).
  • April 11, 2009 - Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva declared a state of emergency in the areas of Pattaya and Chonburi, in response to anti-government protestors breaking into the conference center of a hotel complex in the sea-side resort city of Pattaya, in the then-venue site of the ASEAN was being held, immediately resulting in its cancellation.[60] Another state of emergency on April 12, 2009, was announced in Bangkok and the surrounding areas, due to an heightened escalation of tension between the government and anti-government protesters, but was later lifted.[61]
  • January 2009 - Slovakia was in a state of emergency due to natural gas supply shortage.
  • January 11, 2007 - Bangladesh was in a state of emergency due to electoral violence. This ended on December 16, 2008, when new parliamentary elections were organised.
  • September 2, 2008 - A state of emergency was declared in Bangkok by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej following civil unrest; it was lifted on September 14, 2008.
  • July 1, 2008 - Mongolian president Nambaryn Enkhbayar declared a state of emergency in the capital Ulan Bator for four days after violent protests against the ex-communist Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP). The MPRP had claimed a majority of seats in the 2008 parliamentary elections, but was accused of fraud and vote rigging by the less-successful parties.[62]
  • March 2008 - Armenia was in a state of emergency from March 2, 2008 to March 20, 2008, declared by President Robert Kocharyan in response to protests over the 2008 Armenian presidential elections.[63]
  • November 3, 2007 - Pakistan was in a state of emergency from November 3, 2007 to December 15, 2007. President Pervez Musharraf declared emergency "to stop Pakistan from committing suicide". He lifted the state of emergency after he resigned from the army and took the oath of office as a civilian President of Pakistan.
  • August 25, 2007 - Greece was in a state of emergency from August 25, 2007 to August 28, 2007 due to the highly destructive forest fires that occurred throughout the country.[64]
  • June 2007 - Oman declared a state of emergency as the country was hit by the strongest named cyclone in the northern Indian Ocean, Cyclone Gonu.[65]
  • January 2007 - Santa Clara County, California was under a state of emergency due to extremely cold temperatures.[66]
  • May 14, 2006 - The U.S. states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire declared a state of emergency as a result of massive flooding from the strongest rains to hit the regions in almost 70 years.
  • October 13, 2006 - Buffalo, New York declared a state of emergency when the "most devastating snow storm in U.S. history" hit the city. Schools and businesses were closed for a week, and Buffalo and surrounding towns and cities were declared major disaster areas by President Bush.
  • February 24, 2006 - the Philippines declared a state of emergency via Philippine Proclamation 1017 for one week until Philippine Proclamation 1021, in response to a supposed coup against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's government in the midst of the 20th anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolution that toppled the rule of Ferdinand Marcos.
  • August 27, 2005 - In Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina
  • Mid-August 2005 - Sucumbios and Orellana, two provinces of Ecuador, because of indigenous protests against oil firms
  • April 15, 2005 - Quito, capital of Ecuador due to protests; lifted less than a day later, on April 17, 2005.
  • February to April 2005 - Nepal
  • December 2004 - Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Maldives because of the tsunami.
  • November 2004 - Iraq
  • October 2004 - The Gaza Strip and West Bank
  • April 2004 - Ryongchon, North Korea following a major explosion.
  • November 2003 - Georgia, following weeks of civil unrest.
  • August 2003 - Michigan, Ohio, New York, US and Ontario, Canada, in response to the 2003 North America blackout.
  • August 2003 - Philippines
  • August 2003 - Portugal, in response to forest fires.
  • July 2003 - Mexico, in response to a West Nile virus outbreak (estado de emergencia).
  • May 2003 - Peru (estado de excepción or estado de sitio depending on the source).
  • April 2003 - Mato Grosso, Brazil, in response to torrential rainfall (estado de emergência).
  • March 2003 - Serbia after assassination of Zoran Đinđić (vanredno stanje).
  • January 2003 - Canberra, the national capital of Australia during the Canberra bushfires of 2003.
  • September 2002 - Moscow, Russia, in response to smoke pollution from forest fires.
  • July 2002 - Paraguay (estado de excepción)
  • December 2001 - Argentina (estado de sitio), in response to public unrest.
  • November 2001 - Nepal, in response to increased guerrilla activity.
  • November 30, 1999 - Seattle, Washington, stemming from protest of the WTO Ministerial Conference of 1999 and police reaction to it.
  • May–June 1998 - Indonesia declares state of emergency, due to May 1998 riots of Indonesia.
  • March 2, 1997 - The 1997 unrest in Albania, also known as the Lottery Uprising or Anarchy in Albania, was an uprising sparked by Ponzi scheme failures. Albania descended into anarchy and violence in which the government was toppled and some 2,000 people were killed. On March 1, Prime Minister Aleksandër Meksi resigned and on March 2 President Sali Berisha declared a state of emergency.
  • August 5, 1995 - Trinidad and Tobago to remove Speaker of the House Occah Seapaul who refused to resign.[67]
  • Winter 1995 - Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan after a severe snowstorm buried the city in 6 feet (1.8 m) of snow.
  • April–May 1992 - United States, California. State of Emergency was declared in response of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
  • March 1992 - Republic of Moldova, in response to War of Transnistria
  • 1992 to 2011 - Algeria endures a 19-year state of emergency enacted at the beginning of the 1992 coup. The state of emergency, which suspended citizens' rights in lieu of military power, was lifted after the Algerian Government gave in to protestor demands during the 2011 Arab Spring.[8]
  • August 1991 - Soviet Union, enemies of Mikhail Gorbachev's reforms evoked the state of emergency because Gorbachev, according to them, was destroying both communism and the state itself. The leader of the coup was Gennady Yanayev.
  • July–August 1990 - Trinidad and Tobago declared a state of emergency when a group stormed Parliament and a TV Station holding government officials, including the Prime Minister at ransom. See Jamaat al Muslimeen coup attempt
  • July 1985 to February 1990 - South Africa, in response to increasing civil unrest and township violence opposing apartheid rule.
  • 1975 to 1977 - India. Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1975 in response to political opposition and her own conviction on charges of electoral fraud. The Emergency lasted for 19 months
  • 1972 to 1976 - Mauritius, due to ethnic and labor-related unrest. Elections were suspended during this period, and political rights were broadly circumscribed.
  • 1971 - Queensland, Australia in response to fears over increasing protest over the 1971 Springbok tour
  • 1970 to 1972 - Trinidad and Tobago a state of emergency was declared to deal with the Black Power Revolution which also included a mutiny in the Military.
  • 1972 - the United Kingdom in response to increasingly militant industrial action.
  • October 1970 - Quebec in response to the October Crisis kidnappings of government officials.
  • July 1967 - Detroit in response to the 12th Street riot started on Sunday morning during a blind pig raid.
  • October 1962 - United States in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  • 1948 to 1960 - Malayan Emergency in Malaysia and Singapore
  • 1958 - Malta due to riots against the British colonial government following Prime Minister Dom Mintoff's resignation.
  • 1950 to 1978 - United States due to the Cold War, specifically the threat of "world conquest by communist imperialism."[68]
  • 1939 to 1952 - United States due to World War II
  • 1941 to 1942 - Moscow due to the German Advance to within 19 miles (31 km) of the city
  • March 18, 1907 - Moldavia and Wallachia in Romania during the 1907 Romanian Peasants' Revolt.

See also


  1. ^ (French) D. Prémont, C. Stenersen, I. Oseredczuk, Bruylant, Brussels, Droits intangibles et états d'exception[fr.] 1996, 644p., ISBN 2-8027-0766-3, Éditions Bruylant
  2. ^ Article 4, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
  3. ^ (Italian) Nuovi studi politici, gennaio-giugno 2005, n. 1/2, p. 107Declaratoria dello stato di emergenza e Consiglio supremo di difesa.
  4. ^ See Judson, 2012, " Where is R2P grounded in international law".
  5. ^ European Convention on Human Rights, Article 15
  6. ^ American Convention on Human Rights, Article 27
  7. ^ Agamben 2005
  8. ^ a b "'"Algeria's state of emergency to be lifted 'imminently. BBC News. 2011-02-22. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  9. ^ "State of emergency in Argentina and other Spanish-speaking countries (in Spanish)". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  10. ^ "Emergencies Act". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  11. ^ "Emergencies Act". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  12. ^ "State of Emergency FAQ". 2003-08-07. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  13. ^ "The Danish police law — law number 444 of June 9, 2004". 2004-09-21. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  14. ^ Politi: De unge klager over racistiske betjente (The police: Youth complain over racist cops), by Andreas Lindqvist, Politiken, February 18, 2008
  15. ^ a b Law 1958/162 (Emergency Law) (Arabic) at EMERglobal Lex, part of the Edinburgh Middle East Report. Retrieved 2010-04-02.
  16. ^ Shehata, Samer (March 26, 2004). "Egypt After 9/11: Perceptions of the United States". Contemporary Conflicts. Social Science Research Council. Retrieved 29 January 2011. 
  17. ^ a b "Al-Ahram Weekly | Egypt | Enough is still enough". 2005-09-14. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  18. ^ "Violence flares in Egypt after emergency law imposed". Reuters. 2013-01-28. 
  19. ^ "Egypt lifts unpopular emergency law". CNN. 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  20. ^ "Egypt declares national emergency". BBC News. 2013-08-14. 
  21. ^ "Egypt in state of emergency as clashes leave 278 dead". CBC News. 2013-08-14. 
  22. ^ "Loi n°55-385 du 3 avril 1955 instituant un état d'urgence et en déclarant l'application en Algérie" (in Français). Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f Les pouvoirs exceptionnels du président, official governmental website (French)
  24. ^ La mise en oeuvre de l'état d'urgence (French)
  25. ^ [5]
  26. ^ Indymedia Paris Île-de-France - Etat d'urgence justifié pour le ministère de l'Intérieur
  27. ^ "Le Conseil d'Etat refuse de suspendre l'état d'urgence". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  28. ^ Loi constitutionnelle no 2008-724 du 23 juillet 2008 de modernisation des institutions de la Ve République, article 6
  29. ^ Clause 1(A), Article 150, Constitution of Malaysia
  30. ^ "Malaysia lives under state of emergency — EU envoy". Reuters. November 13, 2007. 
  31. ^ "PM declares haze emergency in Muar and Ledang". theSundaily. 2013-06-23. Retrieved 2013-06-23. 
  32. ^ "Civil Defense Emergency Management Act 2002". 2008-10-01. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  33. ^ "Death toll at 75, national emergency declared". Television New Zealand. Retrieved 23 February 2011. 
  34. ^ "Nigeria declares emergency in areas hit by Islamists". Reuters. May 14, 2013. 
  35. ^ "Boko Haram attacks prompt Nigeria state of emergency". BBC News. January 1, 2012. 
  36. ^ a b Silviu Molnar, Security Zone in Pungesti Heavily Criticized by European Greens, Natural Gas Europe, 19 December 2013, Retrieved 23-12-2013
  37. ^ (Romanian)Comuna Pungești, declarată „zonă specială de siguranță publică, Adevărul, 19 December 2013, Retrieved 23-12-2013
  38. ^ Gabriel Petrescu, Chevron Moves Forward in Romania Following Establishment of Special Security Zone, Natural Gas Europe, 14 December 2013, Retrieved 23-12-2013
  39. ^ Currie, Iain; de Waal, Johan (2005). "Chapter Thirty-three: States of Emergency". The Bill of Rights Handbook (5th ed.). Cape Town: Juta & Company Ltd. pp. 798–806.  
  40. ^ "Striking Spain air traffic controllers return to work". BBC. December 4, 2010. 
  41. ^ [6]
  42. ^ [7]
  43. ^,146738.html
  44. ^
  45. ^ Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1953)
  46. ^ "Letter from the President on the Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Certain Terrorist Attacks". 2010-09-10. 
  47. ^ "P-Noy declares state of national calamity | Inquirer News". 2011-12-21. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  48. ^ "Cost of Sendong damage nears P1B". ABS-CBN News. 2011-12-21. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  49. ^ State of emergency imposed in Meiktila
  50. ^ "Egypt renews tough emergency laws". BBC News. 12 May 2010. Retrieved 25 January 2011. 
  51. ^ "Egypt state of emergency lifted after 31 years". BBC News. May 31, 2012. 
  52. ^ "Tunisia: Ex-President Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia". BBC News. January 15, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  53. ^ "Hurricane Irene: N.Y. and four other states declare emergency". 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  54. ^ "Vláda schválila núdzový stav". Petit Press a.s. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011. 
  55. ^ "State of Emergency in the Wake of Powerful Storms". April 15, 2011. 
  56. ^ "Tornado Death Toll Climbs Across the South". April 15, 2011. 
  57. ^ "State of Emergency Declared for 26 Oklahoma Counties". April 15, 2011. 
  58. ^ "Tornadoes, Storms batter Central NC". April 16, 2011. 
  59. ^ "Bahrain Declares State of Emergency". FT. March 15, 2011. Retrieved March 15, 2011. 
  60. ^ "Thai protests force Asia summit cancellation". Reuters. April 11, 2009. 
  61. ^ Thai govt declares state of emergency in Bangkok. Reuters. April 12, 2009
  62. ^ "Mongolia under state of emergency"
  63. ^ Wikinews:Armenian President Kocharyan declares state of emergency
  64. ^ "Greece declares state of emergency as toll soars in forest fires". International Herald Tribune. 2009-03-29. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  65. ^ "News — AlertNet". Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  66. ^ [8]
  67. ^ "Trinidad House Speaker Put Under House Arrest". Trinidad And Tobago: New York Times. 1995-08-05. Retrieved 2011-03-29. 
  68. ^ Espinoza-Castro v. I.N.S., 242 F.3d 1181, 30 (2001).


  • . Excerpt online: "A Brief History of the State of Exception".  
  • .  
  • Walter Benjamin, Zur Kritik der Gewalt ("Critique of Violence")
  • Fabbri, Lorenzo. "Chronotopologies of the Exception. Agamben and Derrida before the Camps", "Diacritics," Volume 39, Number 3 (2009): 77-95.
  • Carl Schmitt, On Dictatorship and Political Theology
  • Wolf, Conradin (2005). Ausnahmezustand und Menschenrecht. .
  • Hussein, Nassar (2003). The Jurisprudence of Emergency. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. .

External links

  • United Nations Human Rights Committee, General Comment 29, States of Emergency (article 4), U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.11 (2001)
  • The protection of human rights in emergency situations, PACE report (2009)
  • Opinion on the protection of human rights in emergency situations, Venice Commission (2006)
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