Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi (5th L), the head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and chief of staff of the Egyptian armed forces Sami Anan sit with assistants (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's military rulers have cast doubt on their commitment to hand over to civilian rule by drastically increasing their own powers before a new president is named, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.
The London-based rights group said a series of decrees by the ruling generals have also set the stage for serious human rights abuses, more than a year after a popular uprising ousted long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak.
Early this month, the justice ministry allowed the military the power to arrest civilians, after the expiry of a decades-long state of emergency.
The military meanwhile issued a new interim charter and a decree allowing it to try civilians before military courts and to take a larger role in decision making even after a new president takes office.
"The generals' relentless expansion of their authority to detain and try civilians now goes far beyond their powers under Hosni Mubarak," said Human Rights Watch Middle East director Joe Stork in a statement.
"These decrees are the latest indication yet that there won't be a meaningful handover to civilian rule on June 30," he said.
The new decrees "sharply reduce civilian oversight of military actions, creating conditions ripe for further serious human rights violations," the statement said.
The military on Sunday also took over legislative powers, days after a court ordered the Islamist-led parliament dissolved.
The generals, who took charge after Mubarak's overthrow in February 2011, insist that the winner of last weekend's presidential election will enjoy full powers after he takes office.
The result of the election has not been officially announced, but both candidates -- the Islamist Mohamed Morsi and the former Mubarak premier Ahmed Shafiq -- have claimed victory.
The military says it will retain parliament's powers until new legislative elections are held, perhaps by the end of the year.