“Combating Terrorism” Does Not Justify an Extralegal Mandate

The undersigned rights organizations express their grave concern over the statement made by the Minister of Defense, on behalf of both the armed forces and the police, calling on the Egyptian people to grant him a mandate to “combat terrorism”.  The most prominent causes for concern over this statement are as follows:395x245_G51f01d1e45688

-Current Egyptian legislation includes provisions which clearly criminalize all acts of terrorism.  Not only is Egyptian law sufficient in this area, but some of these laws exceed the legitimate grounds for combating terrorism by criminalizing acts which should be protected as forms of freedom of expression.

-Even if loopholes were to be found in the laws currently in place, addressing the matter would not require a “popular” mandate allowing the army and the police to act outside the law.  Rather, the matter should be dealt with by reinforcing the rule of law.  This could be achieved by the interim president – who holds broad exceptional powers – issuing the appropriate legal amendments after consulting with the vice president, the prime minister, and legal and rights experts.

In light of the religious and political exacerbation of the violence which has taken place over the last two years against the religious and political “other” (be it against Coptic Christians, Shiite Muslims, or others), it is necessary to evaluate the extent to which the law on political parties has contributed to this increase in violence and to the emergence of incitement to religious and sectarian hatred committed by some political parties and media outlets.

-The real problem is that the police are not positioned in locations where violence  violence  attributable to hired thugs or to members of the Muslim Brotherhood occurs.  This raises questions regarding whether the authorities are continuing to adopt a policy of selective policing and are purposefully absent from places where violence is expected to break out. The practice of selective policing has been implemented frequently by the police since the January 25 “Revolution”.  Selective policing also does not require an extralegal mandate to be resolved; rather, the police should be obligated to perform their duties according to the law in order to prevent all acts of violence and terrorism by any party against citizens.

-Nor does combating the emergence of terrorist acts in Sinai require an extralegal mandate.  One of the most important – and painful – lessons learned by Egyptians during the Mubarak era is that main causes of increased violence were the repressive use of the law in confronting terrorist crimes when they first appeared in Sinai and the reinforcement of discriminatory practices against Egyptian citizens in the peninsula.  These measures helped to the creation of an environment in which terrorism was able to take root.  Unfortunately, these policies have continue even after the removal of Mubarak.  Instead, the understandings between the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies contributed to the “suspension” of the law and of the role of law enforcement forces in combating illegal groups which embrace the use of violence.  Ironically, human rights organizations were at the same time harassed and their offices broken into by the armed forces.

What is required to address this situation is not a popular mandate which would fundamentally violate the principles of a state governed by rule of law. Instead the government should strengthen of the rule of law by supporting the state institutions mandated to enforce the law in Sinai, developing the competence of the security bodies to collect information and conduct investigations in Sinai, and establishing an urgent plan to eliminate all discriminatory policies and practices against Egyptian citizens in Sinai with the participation of these citizens.  The state, as represented by the interim president, should present a genuine apology to these citizens – and thereby to all Egyptians – for the discriminatory policies and the marginalization that they have experienced and for all of the crimes which have been committed by the security apparatus against them.

Signatories

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. The Human Right Association for the Assistance of the Prisoners
  3. Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
  4. The Land Center for Human Rights
  5. Egyptian Association for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)
  6. Misryon Against Religious Discrimination (MARD)
  7. Arab Penal Reform Organization

This post is also available in: العربية