Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Egyptian NGO protests military trial of civilian

The Cairo-based Egyptian Organization for Human Rights has issued this statement strongly objecting to military trials of civilians:
EOHR expresses deep concern regarding the referral of a civilian to military justice rather than forwarded to the normal judiciary. On Saturday, August 2, 2014, Tamer Mohammed was accused of assaulting a military conscript inside the armed forces gas station "national". EOHR demands the referral of the accused to Public Prosecutor as an applying for the provisions of Article 204 of the Constitution, where it began in its second paragraph with "No civilian shall face trial before the Military Court", thereby requiring the civilian to be tried before a normal judiciary. However, the article added an exception to this principle that permits the trial of a civilian before military courts in specific cases where the crime "constitute[s] a direct assault against military facilities or camps of the Armed Forces, or their equivalents". It is clear that the legislator used "or their equivalents" to refer to fixed installations of the armed forces without economic projects, and this was confirmed by members of the Committee of fifty, the inadmissibility trial of civilians before military courts regarding to economic projects such as gas stations, hotels, and restaurants... .

In addition to this, the article at its end obliged the legislature to state clearly the civilian crimes that are before military courts when they are committed, which implies that civilians should not be referred to military judiciary for crimes before they are stated in Egyptian law. As the article states, civilians may be tried before military courts because of "crimes related to conscription; or crimes that represent a direct assault against its officers or personnel because of the performance of their duties. The law defines such crimes and determines the other competencies of the Military."
[T]he events [refer] to an altercation inside the armed forces gas station "national" between a civilian and a military soldier, ending with an arrest of the civilian and sub[ject]ing him to the military prosecution [in] accordance [with] Article number "204″ of the new Egyptian constitution. When the defendant's family car[] stopped to fill the fuel on their way back from Fayed city, the defendant observed the queue who line up in the waiting role stopped and not moving, he decided to get out of the car to ask the [soldier] for the cause of the crash, who answered him quietly of the existence of a malfunction in pumping the gasoline, while he was in his way back to his car, he was surprised [by] another soldier who spoke with him in an improper manner, leading to a spark in altercation between the accused and the soldiers. Joined them moments later was the station manager, who holds the rank of colonel[,] and the military police too, and who arrived at the station and arrested the accused, who [was] presented to the military prosecutor in Suez on Sunday morning 3 August.
The EOHR addresses the need to apply Article 97 of the Constitution, which stipulates that "Individuals may only be tried before their natural judge. Extraordinary courts are forbidden." Extraordinary courts include "military" courts in the instance of civilians. On the other hand, the text of Article 93 of the Constitution must be taken in consideration, which made international charters, conventions and international covenants of human rights have the force of law, and where the international conventions and treaties banned trial of civilians before exceptional courts, which is emphasized by article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Committee on Civil and Political Rights also has indicated in its General Comment No. 13 in the session of the Committee twenty-first in 1984, that "The provisions of article 14 apply to all courts and tribunals within the scope of that article whether ordinary or specialized. The Committee notes the existence, in many countries, of military or special courts which try civilians. This could present serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial and independent administration of justice is concerned."
Hafez Abu Seada, President of the Organization, asserts that the referral of a citizen to The military prosecutor because of an altercation with some of the soldiers inside the gas station "national" is unacceptable, and should not pass unnoticed, pointing out that the station "national" is an economic institution offering normal services to the public, and must be subject to the normal criminal law.
The head of the organization pointed [out] that the constitutional article states the possibility of referring civilians to military trial in specific circumstances where any citizen assaults the armed forces' camps or causes damage to military installations. However, such circumstances do not apply to the incident regarding the defendant.

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