Egypt constitution article allowing military trials could be voted down, says panel member

Ahram Online, Saturday 23 Nov 2013

Despite a controversial vote Wednesday where military trials for civilians were approved, the 50-Member Committee could still reject the constitutional article if four more members oppose it in the final vote

The 50-member committee
The 50-member committee (Photo: Al-Ahram)

A member of Egypt's 50-Member Committee, tasked with amending the constitution, has said it's still possible to vote down an article allowing military trials for civilians.

The comments come amid a backlash from several political groups following Wednesday's preliminary vote in favour of the controversial article.

Writer Massaad Abu Fajr said it would take 13 members to vote down an article, so in the final vote, four more members, in addition to the nine who already voted against — or refused to endorse — the article, are needed.

"Nine members in the constitution committee are against the article," Abu Fajr said in a statement on his Facebook page Friday evening.

"Four more No votes and the biased members would not be able to pass any article allowing military trials for civilians."

On Wednesday, Egypt's 50-Member Committee approved an article allowing civilians to be tried by military courts. Thirty members voted in favour of the article, seven against, with two abstentions. The remaining 11 were absent.

The article was approved after it was amended and presented by the panel's military representative.

The text of the article refers to direct attacks on military premises, camps, properties and factories; attacks on military zones and border areas, and attacks on military vehicles or personnel while they are carrying out their duties. Crimes related to military documents, secrets or funds are also included in the article.

Abu Fajr, representative of the Sinai border region on the panel, withdrew from Wednesday's session. He described the article as "twisted" in comments on Twitter and objected to the fact that the article was put to a vote in the first place.

Rights organisations and activists have been calling for a complete ban on trials of civilians by military courts in Egypt.

The final draft of the amended 2012 Constitution is expected to be finalised in December.

Short link: