No to Military Trials address constitutional committee

Ahram Online, Monday 23 Sep 2013

'No to Military Trials' group demands an article inserted in the new constitution to compensate civilians sentenced by military courts

No Military
Egyptian activists with stickers that read: "No to military trials for civilians" at a rally (Photo: AP)

Representatives of the 'No to Military Trials for Civilians' group took part in a consultation session with the sub-committee regulating freedom and rights on behalf of the 50-member constitutional amendment committee on Monday.

Ragia Omran, a human rights lawyer and a founding member of the group, told Ahram Online that they demanded article 198 of the constitution be amended.

Article 198 of the currently dissolved 2012 constitution dictates that civilians are not to be tried before military courts, except for crimes that include direct assault on the armed forces, which are specified by law. The jurisdiction of military courts is also determined by law.

No to Military Trials are demanding that the law is altered, so that military courts are only concerned with crimes committed by members of the armed forces, a suggestion that Omran says was agreed on by some of the 20 members of the constitution committee in attendance at Monday's meeting.

“Some of the attendees agreed with our demand to prohibit military trials for civilians with no exception, however there were also others who agreed but said there should be an exception for those who attack military institutes or vehicles,” said Omran, who stressed that her group is vehemently against “exceptions,” as it is used to legitimise the military trials of civilians.

The human rights lawyer, who has been recently appointed as a member of the National Council for Human Rights, also pointed out that the controversial article was not included in the annulled 1971 constitution, and that it was added to the 2012 constitution drafted under the rule of Mohamed Morsi.

Omran added the group has requested a new article is added to the constitution to grant compensation, including the right to sue, to civilians who have faced military trial since the rule of Hosni Mubarak until today.

Several Egyptian human rights organisations have condemned the military trials of civilians, saying that around 60 convictions have been passed by army tribunals since Morsi's ouster on 3 July this year.

On 3 September a military court sentenced a Muslim Brotherhood member to life in prison for violence targeting the army in the port city of Suez last month. Forty-eight other members received sentences of between 5 to 15 years in prison.

In addition, Sinai-based reporter Ahmed Abu Deraa is currently on trial in a military court for charges of photographing the Suez Canal and other prohibited sites, in addition to trespassing on military land without a permit.

On Monday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy assured his American counterpart John Kerry that civilians arrested during recent protests across Egypt would not face military trials.

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