Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Egypt's military courts -- mission creep?

Mada Masr has this intriguing and dismaying report on the effort to expand the influence of and normalize Egypt's voracious military courts. Excerpts:
According to a number of judges and legal experts who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, the constitutional amendments and the ensuing legislation entrench the Armed Forces firmly within Egypt’s judicial system, bestowing more authority on what is already the most powerful actor in the country. The changes also greatly expand the application of military trials for civilians, essentially normalizing what was once an exceptional practice.
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The Court of Cassation source says the changes to the status of the military judiciary are part of a broader effort to undermine judicial independence. The president now has greater powers over the selection of the heads of Egypt’s top judicial bodies and will also determine appointments, promotions and other judicial aspects as head of the Council of Judicial Bodies.

“What they want will happen and nobody will object. Whether it’s the incorporation of the military judiciary into the civil judiciary, or essentially granting the president veto power over all judicial affairs, from appointments to promotions to assignments and so on,” says the deputy head of the Court of Cassation.

The first moves toward bringing the military justice system under the umbrella of Egypt’s civil judiciary and expanding the military’s authority to try civilians came during the drafting of the 2012 constitution, according to one of the 10 legal experts who drafted the 2014 constitution.

At the time, the head of the military judiciary called on the 2012 Constituent Assembly drafting the constitution to move articles related to the military judiciary — including a provision allowing for military trials of civilians — from the section on the Armed Forces to the section on the judiciary.
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Overall, the constitutional amendments and the laws put forward help entrench the military judiciary within Egypt’s judicial system. Yet the deputy head of the Constitutional Court says that the changes go even further by giving the military “constitutional control” of the functions of the judiciary and the police.

The head of an administrative court puts it more bluntly: “The independence of the judiciary has ended.”

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