In the early hours of Friday, the 28th of January 2011 (Friday of Wrath), three companies providing telecommunication and mobile services in Egypt, cut their services, for five days. The companies later rationalized this step, stating that it was upon orders by sovereign bodies in Egypt as well as the national agency for organization of communication.
The administrative court (7th circle – economic and investment disputes) looked into a lawsuit number 21855/65 by lawyers and activists, among them Manal El Tibi, director of the Egyptian Center for Housing rights, against state officials related to the decision to cut communication as well as against the three mobile companies, demanding a cancellation of the administrative body’s right to issue a decree to stop or cut communication services to mobile phone. They also demanded that the accused pay compensation for the material and moral harm that befell service users as a result of cutting it for the above mentioned duration.
The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in this case on the 28th of May 2011, addressing in detail the concept of national security, which the administrative body used as a pretext to cut communication, which necessitates a definition of the concept to be able to judge the legitimacy of its use to rationalize the decision, or the absence of such legitimacy and hence accept the appeal. The court defined national security in a number of paragraphs, among which are the following:
“The ability of the country to protect its territory, its fundamental values against external threats, foremost military ones, based on the fact that this mandate of safeguarding state territory against foreign aggression, protection of citizens from harm, as well as their property, beliefs and values, is the mandate granted by the people to the state on ground of the social contract between them.”
The court also described the various aspects of national security, defining its political aspect as “including two elements, an internal and an external one; where the internal aspect relates to the coherence of the internal front, social peace, citizenship with decline of sentiments of tribalism and sectarianism; as for the external aspect it is related to an estimate of the greed of major states in state territory; and the economic aspect is related to the national strategy concerned with the development and use of all state resources to achieve its political objectives and build necessary defense force and promote trade exchange;” the military aspect concerns meeting requirements of defense through the building of a strong military force, capable of achieving strategic military balance and necessary defense; the social aspect being the realization of social justice and reducing class gaps as well as development of services.
The court concluded that it does not recognize a threat to national security which necessitated cutting communication and hence “the claim behind the appealed decree is not justified and has been used to cover another covert cause for its issuance, namely the protection of the regime.”