Egypt: No End in Sight for Systematic Injustice
Deprivation of Freedom Due to Military Trials of Civilians
Monday 20 March 2017
Room XXVII , Human Rights Council in Geneva
The Arab Penal Reform Organization (APRO) and the Committee for Justice (CFJ) stated that referring civilians to military trials in Egypt has become a systematic tool used by the regime which rose in Egypt since 3 July 2013 till now, which aims at countering political and social opposition; which violates the more basic criminal justice criteria of international agreements and covenants to which Egypt is party.
The two organizations stressed that military trial of civilians in Egypt has been legitimized and turned into an intrinsic part of the Egyptian justice system, rather than an exception. Since 3 July 2013, more than 10’000 people have been deprived of their freedom due to prison sentences against them by military courts across the country, despite being civilians.
CFJ has prepared an upcoming report which reveals that “In 50 cases of military trials of civilians, 492 civilians under trial have exhausted all legal procedures and have thus received final sentences. This is a result of a series of legal and legislative violations, and undermining their right to a fair trial through subjecting them to trial before courts that fall under the Ministry of Defence in which the trial is conducted by an officer who doesn’t necessarily have a legal background in light of the absence of media or rights scrutiny.”
CJF also indicated that these 50 trials do not meet the minimum standards of fair trials by virtue of being military courts. Politicization of the military justice system has contributed to nullifying any grounds for independent of such a judicial system.
CFJ also stressed that, having studies the aforementioned 50 cases, legal and legislative measures taken by the Egyptian authorities have been immunized against appeal by lawyers of victims. Hundreds of requests demanding that the Constitutional Court reviews the laws regulating military trials have been denied.
APRO and CJF stated that the conduct and proceedings of military trials of civilians in Egypt are a flagrant violation of the most basic human rights standards of fair trial, and that such a trial system relies on unconstitutional laws to deprive thousands of individuals of their freedom which leads to handing out death sentences as a result of such arbitrary and random laws and bylaws regulating such trials, as well as the absence of legal guarantees.
Both organizations highlighted the need to implement a number of key steps in order to stand up to such violations and crimes that take place because of referring civilians to military justice, including the following:
The Public Prosecution should immediately refrain from acting upon the Instruction Letter of the Public Prosecutor number 14 of 2014. Similarly, the Military Prosecution should refer all cases it is currently investigating to the Public Prosecution on grounds of lacking jurisdiction.
The Parliament should revisit law number 136 of 2014 on protecting and securing public and vital facilities, and embarking on a societal debate over it due to its current state of legal and constitutional flaws and given the crimes and violations it has made possible.
Law number 25 of 1966 on military procedure should be amended to limit military trials to military personnel committing military crimes and crimes taking place within military units and barracks only. Articles 5 bis A, 7, 8 as well as article 48 should be struck out; which currently gives the military justice system the exclusive discretion to define its jurisdiction.
All cases tried before military courts where verdicts were issues or are still being tried before military courts should be referred to public prosecution or the ordinary judiciary and go through retrial procedures in accordance with the Egyptian Penal Code so that suspects may access their right to proper legal counsel.
Civilians who received verdicts in military courts should be immediately released. The President of the Republic should nullify verdicts of military courts against civilians in accordance with his powers prescribed in articles 98 through 116 of the Military Justice law especially item 4 of article 99, to cover verdicts in the period starting February 2011 till present day.
Article 204 of the Constitution should be amended to strictly prohibit trials of civilians before military courts.