State of emergency

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Members of the Royal Malay Regiment during the Malayan Emergency in 1949, inspecting equipment captured in a raid. Malay Regiment operatives 1949.JPG
Members of the Royal Malay Regiment during the Malayan Emergency in 1949, inspecting equipment captured in a raid.

A state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions that it would normally not be permitted to do. A government can declare such a state during a disaster, civil unrest, or armed conflict. Such declarations alert citizens to change their normal behavior and orders government agencies to implement emergency plans. Justitium is its equivalent in Roman lawa concept in which the senate could put forward a final decree (senatus consultum ultimum) that was not subject to dispute.

Justitium is a concept of Roman law, equivalent to the declaration of the state of emergency. Some scholars also refer to it as a state of exception, stemming from a state of necessity. It involved the suspension of civil business, typically including the courts, the treasury and the senate and was ordered by the Roman higher magistrates. It was usually declared following a sovereign's death, during the troubled period of interregnum, but also in case of invasions. However, in this last case, it was not as much the physical danger of invasion that justified the instauration of a state of exception, as the consequences that the news of the invasion had in Rome - for example, justitium was proclaimed at the news of Hannibal's attacks. The earliest recorded occasion of Justitium being invoked was for the same reason, when in 465 BC panic gripped the city due to a mistaken belief of imminent invasion by the Aequi.

<i>Senatus consultum ultimum</i> "ultimate decree" of the ancient Roman senate

Senatus consultum ultimum, more properly senatus consultum de re publica defendenda is the modern term given to a decree of the Roman Senate during the late Roman Republic passed in times of emergency. The form was usually consules darent operam ne quid detrimenti res publica caperet or videant consules ne quid res publica detrimenti capiat. It was first officially decreed prior to the fall of Gaius Gracchus in 121 BC, and subsequently at several other points, including during Lepidus' march on Rome in 77 BC, the Conspiracy of Catiline in 63 BC, and before Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon in 49 BC. The senatus consultum ultimum effectively replaced the disused dictatorship, by removing limitations on the magistrates' powers to preserve the state. After the rise of the Principate, there was little need for the Senate to issue the decree again.


States of emergency 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 vary by country.

Constitution Set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity, and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to "constitution", implying it is a temporary but necessary measure without formal enactment of constitution. A basic law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with uncodified constitutions, a law given to have constitution powers and effect. The name is usually used to imply an interim or transitory nature, or avoid attempting a claim to being "the highest law", often for religious reasons. In West Germany the term "Basic Law" (Grundgesetz) was used to indicate that the Basic Law was provisional until the ultimate reunification of Germany. But in 1990 no new constitution was adopted and instead the Basic Law was adopted throughout the entire German territory. Basic law is entrenched in that it overrides ordinary 'statute law' passed by the legislature.

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 right to life, the rights to freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, slavery, torture, and ill-treatment. [2]

International law regulations governing international relations

International law, also known as public international law or law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.

The right to life is a moral principle based on the belief that a human being has the right to live and, in particular, should not be killed by another human being. The concept of a right to life arises in debates on issues of capital punishment, war, abortion, euthanasia, police brutality, justifiable homicide, animal welfare and public health care. Various individuals who identify with pro-life views may disagree on which areas this principle applies, including such issues previously listed.

Slavery System under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work

Slavery is any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalised, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against their own will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour to refer to such situations. However, and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word, slaves may have some rights and protections according to laws or customs.

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 and ratified by states. Therefore, the Covenant applies to only those persons acting in an official capacity, not private individuals. However, States Parties 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 and all other States Parties to the Covenant must be notified 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, its monitoring Committee of experts has no sanction power and its recommendations are therefore not always strictly followed; enforcement is therefore better regulated by the American and European Conventions and Courts on human rights. [3]

United Nations Intergovernmental organization

The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established after World War II, with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. Its headquarters, which are subject to extraterritoriality, are in Manhattan, New York City, and it has other main offices in Geneva, Nairobi, Vienna and The Hague. The organization is financed by assessed and voluntary contributions from its member states. Its objectives include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development, and upholding international law. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193.

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 ).

Dictatorship form of autocratic government led by a single individual

A dictatorship is an authoritarian form of government, characterized by a single leader or group of leaders with either no party or a weak party, little mass mobilization, and limited political pluralism. According to other definitions, democracies are regimes in which "those who govern are selected through contested elections"; therefore dictatorships are "not democracies". With the advent of the 19th and 20th centuries, dictatorships and constitutional democracies emerged as the world's two major forms of government, gradually eliminating monarchies, one of the traditional widespread forms of government of the time. Typically, in a dictatorial regime, the leader of the country is identified with the title of dictator, although their formal title may more closely resemble something similar to "leader". A common aspect that characterized dictatorship is taking advantage of their strong personality, usually by suppressing freedom of thought and speech of the masses, in order to maintain complete political and social supremacy and stability. Dictatorships and totalitarian societies generally employ political propaganda to decrease the influence of proponents of alternative governing systems.

Martial law temporary state of government typically involving curfews; the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus; and the application of military law to civilians

Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory.

Military Organization primarily tasked with preparing for and conducting war

A military is a heavily-armed, highly-organised force primarily intended for warfare, also known collectively as armed forces. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards.

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 be to only 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.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights United Nations General Assembly resolution adopted in 1966

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) is a multilateral treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly. Resolution 2200A (XXI) on 16 December 1966, and in force from 23 March 1976 in accordance with Article 49 of the covenant. Article 49 allowed that the covenant would enter into force three months after the date of the deposit of the thirty-fifth instrument of ratification or accession. The covenant commits its parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, electoral rights and rights to due process and a fair trial. As of August 2017, the Covenant has 172 parties and six more signatories without ratification.

Derogation is the partial suppression of a law, as opposed to abrogation—total abolition of a law by explicit repeal—and obrogation—the partial or total modification or repeal of a law by the imposition of a later and contrary one. The term is used in canon law, civil law, and common law. It is sometimes used, loosely, to mean abrogation, as in the legal maxim: Lex posterior derogat priori, i.e. a subsequent law imparts the abolition of a previous one.

Secretary-General of the United Nations head of the United Nations Secretariat

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General serves as the chief administrative officer of the United Nations. The role of the United Nations Secretariat, and of the Secretary-General in particular, is laid out by Chapter XV of the United Nations Charter.

Some political theorists, such as Carl Schmitt, have argued that the power to decide the initiation of the state of emergency defines sovereignty itself. In State of Exception (2005), Giorgio Agamben criticized this idea, arguing that the mechanism of the state of emergency deprives certain people of their civil and political rights, producing his interpretation of homo sacer . [7]


In many democratic states there are a selection of legal definitions for specific states of emergency [8] , when the constitution of the State is partially in abeyance depending on the nature of the perceived threat to the general public. In order of severity these may include:


Sometimes, the state of emergency can be abused by being invoked. An example would be 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. [9]

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 a state of emergency had been declared 52 times by democratic and dictatorial governments, starting in 1854 shortly after the constitution came into force [10] ). The American Convention on Human Rights (Pacto de San José de Costa Rica), adopted in 1969 but ratified by Argentina only in 1984 immediately after the end of 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.[ citation needed ] 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:

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. [11] There are different levels of emergencies: Public Welfare Emergency, Public Order Emergency, International Emergency, and War Emergency. [12]

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 1970 October Crisis, and also during World War I (from 1914 to 1920, against threat of Communism) and World War II (from 1942 to 1945, against perceived threat from Japanese Canadians following Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor).

Under the current Emergency Act a state of emergency can also be declared by provincial, territorial, and municipal governments. [13] In addition Canada's federal government and any of its provincial governments can suspend, for five years at a time, Charter rights to fundamental freedoms in section 2, to legal rights in sections 7 through 14, and to equality rights in section 15 by legislation which invokes the notwithstanding clause, section 33, and therefore emergency powers can effectively be 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. [14] The normal procedure calls for assisting the suspect to a private area and stripping them. [15] The police can also impose a zone in where specific crimes such as violence, threats, blackmailing and vandalism can be punished with a double penalty length. The zone can only be imposed if there is an extraordinary crime development and the zone can only last up to three months unless the extraordinary crime development still applies. [16] [17]

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.


Egyptians lived under an Emergency Law (Law No. 162 of 1958) [18] from 1967 to 2012, except for an 18-month break in 1980 and 1981. The emergency was imposed during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, and reimposed following the assassination of President Anwar Sadat. The law continuously extended every three years since 1981. Under the law, police powers were extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship was legalized. [19] The law sharply circumscribed any non-governmental political activity: street demonstrations, non-approved political organizations, and unregistered financial donations were formally banned. Some 17,000 people were detained under the law, and estimates of political prisoners run as high as 30,000. [20] The emergency rule expired on May 31, 2012, and was put back in place in January 2013. [21] [22] Egypt declared a month-long national emergency on 14 August 2013. [23]

The Egyptian presidency announced a one-month state of emergency across the country on August 14, 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. [24]


State of emergency in Paris, November 2015 Police nationale en service en reponse aus Attentats a Paris, November 15, 2015.jpg
State of emergency in Paris, November 2015

Three main provisions 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 Act of 3 April 1955 allows the proclamation, by the Council of Ministers, of the "state of emergency" ( état d'urgence ). [25] 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, 2005, and 2015.


The Weimar Republic constitution (1919–1933) [26] 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 some of the basic civil liberties provided by the Weimar Constitution (such as habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the speech, the freedom to assemble or the privacy of communications) for the whole duration of the Third Reich. [27] On March 23, the Reichstag enacted the Enabling Act of 1933 with the required two-thirds majority, which enabled Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his cabinet to enact laws without the participation of the legislative. (The Weimar Constitution was never actually repealed by Nazi Germany, but it effectively became ineffective after the passage of the Enabling Act. [28] ) 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 life, 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.


The State of Emergency can be proclaimed by the President of India, when he/she perceives grave threats to the nation, albeit through the advice of the cabinet of ministers. Part XVIII of the Constitution of India gives the President the power to overrule many provisions, including the ones guaranteeing fundamental rights to the citizens of India

In India, a state of emergency was declared twice:

  1. Between 26 October 1962 to 10 January 1968 during the India-China war — "the security of India" having been declared "threatened by external aggression".
  2. Between 3 December 1971 to 21 March 1977 originally proclaimed during the Indo Pakistan war, and later extended on 25 June 1975, along with the third proclamation — "the security of India" having been declared "threatened by external aggression" and by "internal disturbances"

The first Emergency was declared by the president, on advice of Jawaharlal Nehru, the then Prime Minister, and by President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed on advice of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi The provisions of the Constitution allows the Prime Minister to rule by decree.


In Ireland declaring a state of "national emergency" involves Article 28.3.3° of the 1937 Constitution of Ireland, which states that: [29]

Nothing in this Constitution [...] shall be invoked to invalidate any law enacted by the Oireachtas [parliament] 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.

In addition, during a "war or armed rebellion", military tribunals may try civilians, [30] and the Defence Forces are not bound by habeas corpus. [31]

The First Amendment of the Constitution of 1939 allows an emergency to be declared during wars in which the state is a non-belligerent, subject to resolutions by the houses of the Oireachtas. [32] By the 2nd Amendment of 1941, an emergency ends, not automatically when the war does, but only by Oireachtas resolutions. [33] The 21st Amendment of 2002 prevents the reintroduction of capital punishment during an emergency. [34]

The first amendment was rushed through the Oireachtas after the outbreak of the Second World War, in which the state remained neutral. Immediately after, the required resolution was passed, in turn enabling the passage of the Emergency Powers Act 1939 (EPA), which granted the government and its ministers sweeping powers to issue statutory orders termed "Emergency Powers Orders" (EPOs). [35] [36] (The period in Ireland was and is referred to as "The Emergency".) The EPA expired in 1946, although some EPOs were continued under the Supplies and Services (Temporary Provisions) Act 1946 until as late as 1957. [37] [38] Rationing continued until 1951.

The 1939 state of emergency was not formally ended until a 1976 resolution, which also declared a new state of emergency in relation to the Troubles in Northern Ireland and in particular the recent assassination of the British ambassador to Ireland, Christopher Ewart Biggs. [39] The Emergency Powers Act 1976 was then passed to increase the Garda Síochána powers to arrest, detain, and question those suspected of offences against the state. [40] President Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh referred the bill under Article 26 of the Constitution to the Supreme Court, which upheld its constitutionality. [41] The referral was condemned by minister Paddy Donegan as a "thundering disgrace", causing Ó Dálaigh to resign in protest. The 1976 EPA expired after one year, but the state of emergency persisted until 1995, when as part of the Northern Ireland peace process it was rescinded as a "confidence building measure" to satisfy physical force republicans after the Provisional IRA's 1994 ceasefire. [42]

The Offences against the State Act does not require a state of emergency under Article 28.3.3°. [43] [44] Part V of the Act, which provides for a non-jury Special Criminal Court (SCC), is permitted under Article 38.3.1°. [45] [46] Part V is activated by a declaration from the government that it is "necessary to secure the preservation of public peace and order", and it can be rescinded by vote of Dáil Éireann. Provision for internment is similarly activated and rescinded (originally by Part VI of the 1939 act, later by Part II of a 1940 amending act). [43] [47] [48] Parts V and VI were both activated during the Second World War and the IRA's late 1950s Border Campaign; Part V has been continually active since 1972. [49] [50]

Several official reviews of the Constitution and the Offences Against the State Acts have recommended a time limit within which the operation of Article 28.3.3° or Article 38.3.1° must either be explicitly renewed by resolution or else lapse. [51] [52] [53]

Israel and Palestine

Israel's Emergency Defence Regulations are older than the state itself, having been passed under the British Mandate for Palestine in 1945. A repeal was briefly considered in 1967 but cancelled following the Six-Day War. The regulations allow Israel, through its military, to control movements and prosecute suspected terrorists in occupied territories, and to censor publications that are deemed prejudicial to national defense.


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 (Monarch) 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. [54]

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 13th 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." [55] 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 was the first time in years that air quality had dipped to a hazardous level with conditions worsening as dry weather persisted and fires raged in Sumatra. [56]


On February 5, 2018, a state of emergency was declared by Maldives's President Abdulla Yameen for 15 days and ordered security forces into the supreme court and arrested a former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and the Chief Justice of Honorable Supreme court of Maldives. [57]


Namibia declared last a State of Emergency due to an ongoing drought in 2016. [58]

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. [59] 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. [61] 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. [62]


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 Romania, there are two types of states of emergency, each designed for a different type of situation.[ citation needed ]

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

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. [65] 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. [63] This special security zone has faced domestic and international criticism for alleged human-rights abuses.

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone declared, on 7 February 2019, a State of Emergency due to ongoing rape and sexual violence in the country. [66]

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. [67]

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 constitution, which limits which rights may be suspended, but regulated by the "Ley Orgánica 4/1981" (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. [68]

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the President is able to proclaim emergency regulations under the Public Security Ordinance in the constitution in order to preserve public security and public order; suppression of mutiny, riot or civil commotion; or maintenance of supplies and services essential to the life of the community. These regulations last for one month unless confirmed otherwise by Parliament. [69]


According to Art. 185 of the Swiss Federal Constitution The Federal Council (Bundesrat) can call up in their own competence military personnel of maximum 4000 militia for three weeks to safeguard inner or outer security (called Federal Intervention or Federal Execution, respectively). A larger number of soldiers or of a longer duration is subject to parliamentary decision. For deployments within Switzerland the principle of subsidiarity rules: as a first step, unrest has to be overcome with the aid of cantonal police units.


An emergency prevailed in Syria from 1962 to 2011. Originally predicated on the conflict with Israel, the emergency acted to centralize authority in the presidency and the national security apparatus while silencing public dissent. The emergency was terminated in response to protests that preceded the Syrian Civil War. Under the 2012 constitution, the president may pass an emergency decree with a 2/3 concurrence of his ministers, provided that he presents it to the legislature for constitutional review.

Trinidad and Tobago

A state of emergency was declared 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, [70] [71] 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. [72] 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. [73]

The Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced a state of emergency on 22 August 2011 at 8:00 pm in an attempt to crack down on the trafficking of illegal drugs and firearms, in addition to gangs. The decision of the President, George Maxwell Richards, to issue the proclamation for the state of emergency was debated in 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 extended the state of emergency for a further 3 months. It ended in December 2011.


Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 the military conducted three coups d'état and announced martial law. Martial law between 1978 and 1983 was replaced by a state of emergency that lasted until November 2002. The latest state of emergency was declared by President Erdoğan on 20 July 2016 following a failed coup attempt on 15 July 2016 by a faction of the country's armed forces.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, only the British Sovereign, on the advice of the Privy Council (or a Minister of the Crown in exceptional circumstances) 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 a maximum of thirty days unless extended by Parliament. A state of emergency was last invoked in 1974 by Prime Minister Edward Heath in response to increasing industrial action.

The act grants wide-ranging powers to central and local government in the event of an emergency. It allows for the modification of primary legislation by emergency regulation, with the exception of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Part 2 of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

United States

The United States Constitution explicitly provides some emergency powers:

Aside from these, many provisions of law exist in various jurisdictions, which take effect only upon an executive declaration of emergency; some 500 federal laws take effect upon a presidential 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. Presidents have occasionally taken action justified as necessary or prudent because of a state of emergency, only to have the action struck down in court as unconstitutional. [74]

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. For example, on December 10, 2015, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency due to flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains. [75]

The 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act allows the government to freeze assets, limit trade and confiscate property in response to an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to the United States that originates substantially outside of it. As of 2015 more than twenty emergencies under the IEEPA remain active regarding various subjects, the oldest of which was declared in 1979 with regard to the government of Iran. Another ongoing national emergency, declared after the September 11 attacks, authorizes the president to retain or reactivate military personnel beyond their normal term of service. [76]



Past states of emergency

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See also