On Tuesday, June 26, the First Circuit Administrative Court – Individual Disputes, headed by Counselor Ali Fekry, issued a decision to revoke Decree No. 4991/2012 of the Minister of Justice that granted military intelligence and military police judicial powers to arrest civilians. The decision came about based on the appeal no.46282 of judicial year 66, submitted by five human rights NGOs on June 14 against the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the minister of justice, the minister of defense, the public prosecutor, the chief of military justice, and the military prosecutor, in their respective capacities.
The appeal demanded the immediate cessation of the decision that authorized the abovementioned officers to use judicial powers of arrest in the following crimes: felonies and misdemeanors that “harm the government security whether internally or externally”; "firecrackers”; "resisting authorities, refusing to comply with their orders, or attacking them through insults or other means”; "damaging buildings, monuments, and any other public facilities"; "disrupting transportation”; "suspending labor in fields related to the public interest or attacking the freedom to work"; and "intimidation and bullying".
The NGOs consider that many of the felonies included in the resolution fall under the legitimate right of Egyptians to peaceful expression of political views in opposition to the regime, to demonstrate and carry out strikes, and to demand changes to laws or even constitutional provisions. Moreover, the majority of the terms referred to in the resolution are difficult to define legally, which has allowed them to be used previously in many cases to suppress legitimate forms of political and social movements as well as peaceful association.
The appeal deduced SCAF's devious intent behind passing this resolution from a quote made by Major General Adel Morsi, Chief of Military Justice, on Ahram Gate, in which he said, "The decree was made to address the lack of legislative backing for the presence of the armed forces in the street, and it is within the powers of the minister of justice to do so, as stated in Article 23 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which grants the minister the right to issue a decree granting judicial powers of arrest to public servants as related to their functions and as is necessary".
The truth of the matter is that this article grants the minister of justice the right to bestow judicial capacity, yet it does not give the minister the right to increase the prerogatives which fall under judicial powers of arrest, as these powers are defined by law and are not to be determined by an administrative decision made by the minister. This is the legal backing which the administrative court drew upon in its decision to nullify this unlawful expanding of powers, in addition to the fact that judicial powers of arrest should be granted by the minister of justice only when the crimes fall directly within the minister’s realm of jurisdiction and are related to the functions of his position. The law does not allow for such powers to be given to members of the military to be used against civilians.
The appeal was submitted by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, United Group, Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, and Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, in addition to twelve other organizations also supported the demand to abolish the decree in order to prevent the incursion the military into civilian life.
1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
2. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
3. Al Karama for Human Rights.
4. Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies.
5. Arab Network For Human Rights Information.
6. Arab Penal Reform Organization.
7. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression.
8. Center for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance.
9. Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement.
10. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.
11. Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions.
12. Egyptian Organization for Human Rights.
13. Hisham Mubarak Law Center.
14. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners.
15. Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture.
16. Nazra for Feminist Studies.
17. New Woman Foundation.