Egypt: Mohamed Khairat Al-Shatar, victim of military tribunal and 10 years arbitrary detention
Civilians being referred to military tribunals has become a key facet of President Hosni Mubarak’s rule over the last 28 years. Where human rights violations occur on a regular basis, particularly in the context of the suppression of political opponents, even their most basic right to a fair trial or to appear before a judge is ignored.
Egypt’s continued use of the Emergency Law disregards many rights and safeguards stipulated in the International Convent on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), particularly Article 21 on the right to peaceful assembly and Article 2 on the right to a fair trial.
The right to an independent, impartial and fair trial is intransigent in the eyes of international law, and should not be derogated, even under the most critical circumstances.
Although Egypt’s dark history of military tribunals civilians began in the era of former president Gamal Abdul Nasser, these types of trials have increased in number during the era of current President Mubarak. The Emergency Law opened to door to security and intelligence forces to commits acts of repression and violate individuals’ basic human rights, while all the while creating a climate of impunity.
Over the past decades, the Egyptian military courts have frequently taken an unfair stance. This phenomenon is in direct violation of Egypt’s constitution, which stipulates the right of Egyptian citizens to be tried before civilian courts.
Despite the condemnation of international and local human rights organizations, various groups continue to be targeted by these courts – particularly political reformists and those who oppose the government’s corruption and tyranny. The country’s leading opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, have been at the forefront of this debacle.
Mohamed Khairat Al-Shatar is one of the many civilian victims of military tribunal. Over the past 20 years, he has been exposed to various forms of abuse, injustice and human rights violations. In 2007, the Egyptian government fabricated a military case against seven members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mohamed Khairat Al-Shatar, a number of scientists, university professors and prominent business men. The trial itself was unfair and the only evidence presented during the proceedings were memorandums made by the State Security Investigative (SSI) services.
During the trial, various statements and evidence revealed that without a doubt, the clear and arbitrary denial of his rights and of those with him. Khairat Al-Shatar was arrested without a warrant or ever being charged – his belongings were also confiscated. At the time, he was presented before a regular judge and released without charge. However, he was arrested for a second time, presented before a military tribunal and has spent the last seven years in prison without charge.
Alkarama submitted Khairat Al-Shatar’s case to the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), on 27 August 2007 along with that of 25 others. Eventually on 12 September 2008, the WGAD issued Opinion 27/2008, unequivocally confirming Khairat Al-Shatar and the 25 others detentions as arbitrary. The WGAD has invited the Egyptian government to release those individuals still in detention; however the Egyptian authorities have not issued any release orders for those mentioned by the WGAD.
On 1 April 2010, Alkarama requested that the WGAD remind the Egyptian government of its obligations to the Human Rights Councils, asserted in 2007, in which it promised to “implement all human rights instruments, ratified or guided by the work of the international human rights mechanisms”. Despite this, the Egyptian government has ignored the recommendations of the international human rights mechanisms, thus jeopardizing their credibility to the Human Rights Council.
Mohamed Khairat Al-Shatar suffers from serious health problems, including an aggravated heart condition as a result of increased blood pressure. Although he has access to the appropriate medicine, the illness is often out of control. He has been transferred to the Tora prison emergency hospital on several occasions over the past two years, most recently at the end of February 2010.
He also suffers from chronic bronchitis and respiratory problems associated with his aggravated heart condition. He also has serious difficulty breathing, which only increases his risk of a heart attack. He currently suffers from severe diabetes, which in turn causes nerve inflammation in his leg. In addition to all these illnesses, Mr. Al-Shatar also suffers from a thyroid gland deficiency and has a kidney stones problem.
Mr. Al-Shatar’s wife and children have suffered a great deal due to their Mr Al-Shatar’s imprisonment, as they have been burdened the full impact of his detention over the years. He has now been imprisoned for more than 10 years, if you include the seven years he spent in jail in the 90s following his first military tribunal. His family is not only struggling financially, but also socially and psychologically, as Mr. Al-Shatar was the family’s main source of income.
In May 2010, three and a half years of Mohamed Khairat Al-Shatar’s most recent detention, Alkarama conducted an interview with his daughter Zahra Al-Shatar, during which she testifies to the tragic situation of her father and the recent developments on his case.