Saturday, November 1, 2014

Egypt's military trials to be an issue before UN Human Rights Council

Several NGOs have issued a report that addresses, among other things, Egypt's use of military courts to prosecute civilians. According to the organizations' press release, "[t]he report is part of a series of reports submitted by independent rights groups to the UN Human Rights Council in the context of Egypt's second Universal Periodic Review of its rights record, scheduled for November 5." It goes on to say:
The report looks at how many civilians referred to military trials are denied their rights before and during trial, noting that the law prescribes no guarantees to protect the rights of civilians appearing before the military prosecutor, including the right to know the charges against them and guaranteed access to an attorney. Lawyers often face difficulties obtaining the case files for military courts and thus are unable to prepare an adequate defense. Moreover, motions to call defense witnesses are denied, and pretrial detention orders cannot be appealed in the military justice system. In addition, the military prosecutor and judges in tribunals are subject to the orders of their superior and are appointed by the minister of defense, based on recommendations from the head of the Military Judicial Authority. The military prosecutors and judges cannot oversee trials involving those of a higher rank than them, and their judgments can only be approved by a superior officer, who is not a member of court. As such, military judges cannot be considered independent, while the military courts does not permit the public to follow proceedings.
In estimating how many civilians have been prosecuted in military trials, the report notes that according to an official source, from January to August 2011, 11,879 civilians appeared before these tribunals. Another 99 were tried in September in connection with a demonstration in front of the Israeli embassy and another in front of the Defense Ministry; 327 civilians were referred to military courts in 2012.

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