- Life Style
Amnesty International called on the Egyptian government Thursday to cancel a Justice Ministry decree granting the military the right to investigate and arrest citizens for a wide range of offenses.
The move would pave the way for fresh human rights violations and must be revoked immediately, Amnesty said in a statement.
According to the decision, announced on Wednesday by Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid, military police and intelligence officers are now granted the same powers as judicial police when dealing with civilians suspected of offenses relating to national security and public order.
These procedures will be in place in until a new constitution is approved, Hamid said. Many Egyptian politicians said that the decree is an extension of the emergency law.
The public prosecutor had given instructions to stop implementation of the Emergency Law as of 31 May, when Egypt's state of emergency expired, and to refer all crimes that were reviewed by state security courts under the law to regular criminal and misdemeanor courts.
The Emergency Law gave extensive powers to security bodies under ex-President Hosni Mubarak, allowing them to arrest and detain suspects for prolonged periods without putting them on trial or referring them to the appropriate judicial authorities.
“Instead of investigating the serious abuses committed by military officers and soldiers against protesters and others since January 2011, Egypt's authorities are giving them carte blanche to arrest and detain civilians,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa program director at Amnesty International.
“We urge the authorities to rescind this decision, which has dangerous and pervasive ramifications for the rule of law in Egypt, but also in the short term with runoff presidential elections just days away,” Sahraoui added.
“That the minister of justice could now give an army responsible for killing, torture, and thousands of arbitrary arrests and unfair trials the power to arrest and detain civilians beggars belief. It is nothing less than legally sanctioning abuse.”
The statement reported that the head of the military judiciary assured that the decree will not be used against peaceful protesters.
“The end of Egypt's long-standing state of emergency was an opportunity for the authorities to end decades of abuses that have corroded the country's justice system,” Sahraoui said.
“Yet we fear this latest decision signals that instead of ushering in proper reform, the authorities are intent on holding on tight to the emergency powers they enjoyed for so long.”
Amnesty worries that “civilians arrested and investigated under the new decision could face trial in military courts,” adding that the decree could be used to arrest people practicing basic rights protected by international human rights law, such as the right to assemble peacefully.
“We fear this decision will further entrench impunity for members of the military who violently repress peaceful protests and commit other human rights violations. The end of Egypt's emergency must mean an end to impunity and a return to the rule of law,” Sahraoui concluded.