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Meeting with constitution committee successful: No to Military Trials group

Egypt's No to Military Trials group says, despite successful meeting, it will reject the constitution draft if not amended to fully ban military trials for civilians

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Tuesday 24 Sep 2013
anti-military trials group
Members of the No to Military Trials group in Tuesday's news conference (Photo: Nada Rashwan )
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Egypt's No to Military Trials for Civilians group expressed contentment Tuesday following a meeting with representatives from the 50-member committee tasked with amending the suspended 2012 constitution.

The group maintains it will continue to press for a constitution that fully prohibits subjecting civilians to military trials.

"The meeting with committee members was successful," rights lawyer and member of the No to Military Trials for Civilians group Rajia Omran told reporters Tuesday. "We responded to all arguments justifying military trials for civilians and our input was well received by attending members."

The meeting was held Monday at the Shura Council (Upper House) headquarters, in response to a request by the group for a hearing. Members from the sub-committees of Rights and Freedoms and System of Government attended the meeting, including the head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abol Ghar and the head of the lawyers syndicate Sameh Ashour.

Rights lawyer and member of the group Ahmed Ragheb said that the main aim of the meeting was to rebut all possible arguments that would be presented to the members of the committee by the representative of the military judiciary.

"We are seeking to modify the proposed amendment to article 174 in the constitution to ban military trials for civilians under all circumstances," Ragheb said.

Omran mentioned that concerns expressed by committee members regarding the banning of military trials for civilians mostly revolved around potential impracticalities within the current security situation, if military personnel or property is attacked by civilians.

"We responded to the false claim that military trials are more efficient in unstable circumstances and explained that it is within the civilian judiciary's capacity to carry out trials efficiently in such incidents," Omran asserted.

She added that there was a suggestion that the civilian judiciary forms a special department to handle cases relating to offenses against the military by civilians.

The group maintains that despite its satisfaction with the meeting, it will reject the constitution draft if article 174, which dictates the duties of the military prosecution, is not amended to fully ban military trials for civilians.

"If the draft still includes any exception for holding military trials for civilians, we will organise a campaign for a 'no' vote on the draft," Omran said.

Egyptian constitutions, up until the suspended 2012 constitution approved by a referendum in December, have allowed subjecting civilians to military trials.

Following political upheaval when the military council took charge of the country after 25 January uprising in 2011, thousands of citizens arrested by security forces were investigated by military prosecution.

The 2012 constitution was suspended on 3 July when Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, elected in June 2012, was removed by the military following mass protests against his rule.

The No to Military Trials group was established in March 2011 following the military's crackdown on a sit-in in Tahrir Square, where over 170 protesters were arrested and referred to military courts. More Egyptians were tried before military courts during the interim period of military rule following Mubarak's ouster.

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