The undersigned organizations express their deep shock and categorical rejection of Decree No. 4991 of 2012 issued by the Minister of Justice and published in the Official Gazette on 13 June 2012. This decree grants both commissioned and non-commissioned officers from military intelligence and the military police judicial powers of arrest in cases of crimes committed by civilians – over whom the military should have no legal jurisdiction.
The Minister of Justice’s Decree, which is unlawful, grants the aforementioned categories of military officers judicial arrest authorities in cases of crimes set forth in Chapters (I, II and II bis, VII, XII and XIII) of the second book of the Penal Code, as well as Chapters XV and XVI of the third book of the same code.
The undersigned organizations clarified that the following crimes are among the crimes subject to the powers of judicial arrest granted to these officers:
“Misdemeanors and felonies harmful to government security, whether internally or externally,” “explosives,” “resistance to the authorities, non-compliance with their orders, and aggressing them through verbal abuse or other means,” and “causing damage to buildings, historical monuments and other public property”, and “disrupting traffic and transportation,” in addition to “obstructing work in public interest facilities, and violation of the freedom of work,” and, finally, “terrorization and intimidation – thuggery”.
The undersigned organizations express their astonishment vis-à-vis the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’ (SCAF) management of the security situation: instead of the Egyptian government – which is appointed and protected by SCAF – taking serious steps towards vetting and restructuring the Ministry of Interior, the abovementioned Decree establishes the legal foundations for suspicious, internal roles to be played by apparatuses whose real role should be to protect Egypt from external threats.
The undersigned organizations note that many of the offenses set forth in the Decree fall within the lawful rights of all Egyptians to peacefully express political opinions in opposition to the regime, to demonstrate and strike, or to demand the amendment of laws or even constitutional provisions. Human rights organizations had previously and repeatedly warned that the majority of the legal provisions referred to in the Decree are difficult to define legally and that they have previously been abused to suppress legitimate forms of political and social action and to subdue all forms of peaceful association.
The proclamation of the Decree at this moment – only two weeks ahead of SCAF delivering its pledge to hand over power to an elected president – casts doubt on the credibility of this commitment and gives more preponderance to conclusions that the sham transfer of power will not prevent the military establishment from continuing to be a major player in the running of political life.
This Decree, which involves extraordinary powers unsubstantiated by the law, constitutes an obvious circumvention of the formal termination of the state of emergency.
The organizations added, “This decree is much worse than the restrictions and violations for which the State of Emergency provided a legal basis. If tens of thousands were arrested and tortured and some of them killed under the banner of the Emergency Law, this new decree will provide a legal shield for army intervention in the daily life of Egyptians”.
The undersigned oganizations forewarn that thousands of civilians may be subject to prosecution by and referral to the Military Judiciary by virtue of this ominous decree, especially if we take into consideration that it was issued at a moment of massive political tensions which are closely related to SCAF’s failures in managing the affairs of the country.
These tensions portend dramatic clashes in the Egyptian streets, especially in light of the possible dissolution of the parliament and given the possible results of presidential election run-offs, if the run-offs ever take place. Moreover, if re-elections were to be held, this could prolong the transitional period and sustain military rule.
We believe that such a decree represents long-term codification for a process of referral of civilians to military courts. We hold the parliament responsible in this regard, for it played a marginal role in this issue by championing the amendments put forth by SCAF member Major General Mamdouh Shaheen and lent deaf ears to amendments proposed by civilian organizations and forces.
The signatories stated, “The essence of this decree is that the aforementioned officers are entitled to arrest, search, and interrogate civilian citizens in any place and to bring them before the competent prosecution”.
The undersigned organizations stressed that the revolution aimed to bring all under the rule of law and to repeal the unreasonable powers enjoyed by army and police officers. This decree takes Egypt back to an era which may be worse than the era of Mubarak, against whom Egyptians revolted.
In the opinion of the undersigned organizations, the minister of justice has violated the law by this decree particularly Article 23 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as the judicial arrest authority can be granted on condition that the crimes are included in his circle of competence and work-related function. The law doesn’t state that military men can be granted judicial arrest authority set against civilians.
Consequently, the decree issued by the Minister of Justice specifying the functions of law enforcement officers responsible for judicial arrests should not be issued pursuant to an administrative decree, as such functions should be determined by law. The undersigned organizations will take all legal and judicial measures, as well as other escalatory steps, if this decree is not repealed.
The signatories to this statement also call upon members of Parliament to shoulder their responsibilities and to file briefing and interrogation requests to the Minister of Justice to identify the reasons behind the proclamation of this decree.
Al Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
Al Karama for Human Rights
Al Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture
Arab Network For Human Rights Information
Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
Hisham Mubarak Law Center
Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
Nazra Association for Feminist Studies
New Woman Foundation
The Arab Penal Reform Organization
The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
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