Egypt Independent

Update: HRW, Amnesty criticize decision giving military arrest powers

Human Rights Watch has called on President Mohamed Morsy to amend his decree giving the military the power to arrest civilians in order to prevent military courts from trying civilians.

The organization said in a statement on its website that the decision gives law enforcement authority to the armed forces without any measures to protect civilians from being referred to military courts, and said that anyone detained should immediately be transferred to Public Prosecution.

“Any deployment of the Egyptian military to help maintain security needs to be accompanied by guarantees to respect basic rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “President Morsy should be ending, not expanding, military trials of civilians.”

The HRW statement comes after Amnesty International criticized Morsy’s decision granting the army the power to arrest civilians in a report Monday.

Morsy issued the decision Sunday, saying it was necessary to assist the police in ensuring security for the controversial referendum on the draft constitution slated for 15 December. The draft constitution is bitterly opposed by secular powers.

The organization, in a report on Monday, called the new decree “a dangerous loophole which may well lead to the military trial of civilians.”

“Considering the track record of the army while they were in charge, with more than 120 protesters killed and in excess of 12,000 civilians unfairly tried before military courts, this sets a dangerous precedent,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

Last June, former Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid issued a decree giving military intelligence and officers the power to arrest civilians.

Rights activists at that time said the decree threatened the rights of civilians. Later in the same month, the Administrative Court struck down the decree.