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Rights organisations condemn minister's decree

(CIHRS/IFEX) - 13 June 2012 - 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.

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