The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) said Monday that it challenged a decision to refer a 19-year-old to military trial, on behalf of the minor’s father.
The minor was arrested, along with several others, on 12 August, and was referred to prosecution the next day. The defendants were accused of “joining a banned organisation, rallying, protesting without a permit, use of force and violence, threatening to use them, chanting against the armed forces and vandalising public property”.
Following prosecution’s investigation, the case was referred to military prosecution in November, who proceeded with its own investigation. On 30 November, the military prosecution referred the defendants to military trial, including the 19-year-old, Abdallah Abdeldayem.
Between Abdeldayem’s arrest and his referral to military court, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a temporary law on 27 October through presidential decree, stating that those who commit crimes against “vital” or public facilities will be referred to the military judiciary. Article 156 of the constitution states that the president has the power to issue laws by decree. These decrees must be “discussed and approved” by the House of Representatives “within 15 days from the date the new House convenes”.
In the petition contesting the minor’s referral to a military trial, ECESR cited a “constitutional principle” which states that punishment is not permissible for actions that occurred prior to the date of the law.
ECESR’s challenge was presented to the Administrative Court. The NGO requested that the court accept the appeal and urgently stop the prosecution’s decision to refer the case to the military judiciary.
It also requested permission from the court to challenge the constitutionality of Articles 1 and 2 of the law issued in October.
The facilities referred to in the law include “stations, power networks and towers, gas and oil fields, rail lines, road networks, bridges”. The law states that these facilities are considered “military facilities” throughout the period of applying the law. The law is set to be applied for two years, starting from the date of its coming into effect in October.
The law stipulates that the prosecution must refer cases of violations against the aforementioned facilities to the military prosecution.
This law was criticised by the international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW), which described it as an “unprecedented expansion of military courts… [which] broadens jurisdiction over civilians”. Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW said: “This law represents another nail in the coffin of justice in Egypt”.
The law was issued by Al-Sisi after attacks on security forces in North Sinai on 24 October left at least 30 security personnel dead.
Following the issuance of the law, hundreds were referred to military prosecution and trials. In December alone, more than 700 people were referred to military judiciary. These include 439 referred to military courts on 13 December, on charges related to the violence that broke out in August 2013, after the forced dispersals of pro-Mohamed Morsi encampments. Another 300, purported to be Muslim Brotherhood figures, were referred by the prosecution in Ismaillia to military courts on 15 December.
Article 204 of the constitution bans military trials for civilians, with many exceptions: “ cases which represent a direct assault on armed forces institutions, their camps or anything that falls under their authority, alongside assaults on military or border zones, and military institutions, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, secrets, public funds, or factories”.
The article also allows for the military prosecution of civilians who commit crimes concerning conscription or crimes considered a “direct attack on military officers or personnel as a result of carrying out their duties”, leaving the definition of such crimes up to the law.