Fate of military trials in Egypt's constitution to be decided on Sunday

Ahram Online, Saturday 16 Nov 2013

First draft of the amended constitution to be issued on Tuesday

Egypt's 50-member constitution-amendment committee in session (Photo: Al-Ahram)

The secretary-general of the committee responsible for drafting the new constitution has announced that the articles related to the military will be decided on Sunday.

The 50-member committee will be discussing four suggestions regarding military trials of civilians, Gaber Nassar said in a press statement released on Saturday, reported through Ahram Arabic website.

The legality of subjecting civilians to military tribunals has been a point of controversy in the process of drafting the new constitution.

Article 198 in the 2012 constitution, currently suspended, states that civilians may not be tried before military courts, except for crimes that "harm the armed forces" which are specified by law.

According to Nassar, one of the suggestions under consideration is to leave those articles related to the military untouched, including the articles that deal with military trials.

Another suggestion is to retain military trials for civilians but to leave the definition of when they might be applied to the law and not the constitution, as was the case in the 1971 constitution. However, Nassar criticised the second option, arguing it could increase the number of military trials.

The third proposal is to keep the amendments suggested by the technical committee.

Article 198 was reformulated to become Article 174 by the technical committee, and the drafted version allows military trials only for crimes that "represent a direct assault on the armed forces."

The formulation was criticised by military representative Magd El-Din Barakat at a meeting of the 50-member committee in September. He argued that any rewording of Article 174 is a direct attack on the armed forces.

"The final proposal is a compromising formula which includes defining the military sites that if assaulted could lead to military trials," said Nassar, adding that these sides includes military buildings, barracks and vehicles.

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

According to Nassar, a first draft of the amended constitution will be issued on Tuesday.

Officials say the final version of the constitution will be completed by 3 December and will be submitted to interim President Adly Mansour for approval. It will then be put to a national referendum.

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