Military articles still unresolved: Constitution amending committee
Ahram Online, Thursday 10 Oct 2013
Constitutional committee postpones release of amended draft constitution; issues of military trials for civilians, defence minister still on table

A subcommittee created by Egypt's constitution-amending body to resolve outstanding disagreements regarding military related articles failed to complete its task within the allocated one-week timeframe and will meet again after the Eid Al-Adha holidays.

Hoda El-Sadda, head of the Rights and Freedoms Committee, said in a press conference that representatives from the 50-member constitutional committee and the Egyptian Armed Forces failed to reach an agreement on articles dealing with military trials and the appointment of the defence minister.

Army representatives have demanded that the constitution give the military the authority to name the defence minister through the next two presidential terms.

In September, constitutional committee members proposed to remove the article that requires the approval of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – the Egyptian military's governing body – in order to appoint a defence minister.

The thorny issue of military trials for civilians has also stalled the subcommittee's work. While the under-amendment 2012 constitution allows civilians to appear before military court, opponents within the committee are seeking to limit its clout or prohibit the practice altogether.

El-Sadda said both parties within the subcommittee are refusing to compromise, and that they have decided to continue the discussion after the Eid Al-Adha holidays this week.

Sources told Al-Ahram's Arabic website that military representatives refused a sub-committee proposal to create special civilian courts to prosecute attackers of military facilities. According to the 2012 charter, perpetrators of this crime would be tried in front of a military tribunal.

Military representatives also rejected suggestions that civilians face military trials only in the case of terrorism or direct assault on military personnel. Proposals that the constitution completely ban military trials for civilians were similarly rejected.

Representatives from the constitutional committee refused proposals by army representatives that the constitution explicitly detail potential crimes against the army. The constitutional committee representatives argued that this is unconventional in modern democratic constitutions, Al-Ahram's Arabic website reported.

Amr El-Shobaki, a member of the military-related articles subcommittee, said that the problem lies in the military's view that Egypt is facing abnormal circumstances.

The amended draft of the 2012 constitution was supposed to be completed this week, but has been postponed due to internal disagreements such as those regarding military articles.

After the popularly-backed military ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, the interim government initiated a transitional roadmap to guide the country until presidential elections are held. The 2012 constitution, which was drawn up by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly during Morsi's rule, is being amended as part of that roadmap.