• February 10, 2007
  • 19 minutes read

Military Courts: Long History of Human Right Violations

Military Courts: Long History of Human Right Violations

The decision of transferring the Muslim Brotherhood’s (MB) second deputy chairman Khairat Al Shater and 39 other MB leaders to a military court reopened the file of Egyptian military tribunals and the suffering of the Egyptian people, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood group, due to violating the simplest human right, i.e. that the one is tried in front of a civil judge who secures a fair trial.

The Egyptian regime is a leading regime in using the emergency laws as it has been using the emergency laws since president Mubarak assumed office in 1981, i.e. 25 years during which the emergency law was mischievously used to the extent that the number of detainees reached nowadays about 18 thousand political detainees. Add to this regularly transferring civilians to military courts without any need for doing so; transferring civilians to military tribunals was only up to the whims of Mubarak and his regime without taking into consideration the defendants’ right to defend themselves.

We will discuss in this report some of the powers of the military tribunals, the difference between them and civilian courts, the date of starting these trials in the modern age in Egypt, in addition to a table that shows the military tribunals against the Muslim Brotherhood members.

1- The Military Justice in Egyptian Legislations, International Covenants Concerned with Human Rights .

The law no. 25 of the year 1966 amended by law no. 1 of the year 1983 organized the authorities of forming military tribunals. This law violates the principle of consistency and unity of justice, as usurps the authority of the ordinary civil courts, and denies the citizen his rights to appear before a civil judge.

This law stipulates:
“Extending the authority of the military tribunals to include civilians working at the Armed Forces and the state security cases stated in the first and second chapters of the penal code. Also, the sixth article of the law entitles the president, under the state of emergency, to transfer any case under the penal code or any other code to the military court.

This law denies civilians their right to appear before the civilian judges to be tried for crimes not related to the military system both in ordinary or emergency conditions and to appear in front of a judicial authority with an exceptional nature.

Many guarantees of specialization, independence and neutrality which are supposed to be found in the civilian courts as prescribed in the 14th article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, are mostly absent under the military justice. This is because the military tribunals which are exclusively consisting of military officers don’t condition that these officers have any appropriate legal license. Also, the independence of the military tribunals is marred because they are part of the public administration of military justice which is affiliated to the High Command of the Armed Forces. Add to this that their judges remain in this post for two years and can be dismissed at any time.

This law doesn’t have any text that obliges the rulings issued by the military tribunals to be supervised by a higher Court to observes a right application of the law, as the rulings are ratified by the president as he is the supreme commander of the armed forces or any authorized officer from the Armed Forces.

The military law violates the general principles adopted in the code of criminal procedure as it doesn’t define a maximum period for provisional detentions.

Accordingly, the rulings of this law conflict with Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that states in the first item that:” All persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law…..”. and that states in its fifth item that:” Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.” 

For the same reasons, the texts of this law contradict with” the basic principles of the judiciary independence”, that state in the fifth article that:” Every one has the right to be tried in front of civil courts or judicial authorities that apply the prescribed legal procedures. It is not permissible to establish judicial authorities that don’t apply the scheduled legal procedures according to the principles of the judicial measures, in a way that may remove the judicial power of ordinary courts”.

More accurately clearly, the military tribunals lack the criteria of a fair trial approved by article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which consist of the following:

1-Equality is in front of justice .

2-To be tried in public

3-Independence, neutrality and authority of the court

4-That every one has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.

5-That every one  is given enough time and facilities to prepare his defense.

6-That the rulings are made public.

7-The every one examines, or has examined, the witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him.

8- Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.


2-Military Tribunals, Lacking Guarantees of Fair Trial

Although the Egyptian law guarantees giving enough time for defendants to defend themselves, it ignored the factor of time in the military tribunals.
To Cite Examples:

-In the case of The Returnees from Afghanistan, in which eight defendants were sentenced to death, the trial lasted no more than 35 days.

-In the case of hitting tourism, the trial lasted 28 days and ended with issuing seven death sentences.

-In the case no. 19 of the year 1992, known as Zainhum Case, the trial lasted 22 days and ended with two death sentences against two defendants.

-In the trial of those charged of attempting a coup, Organization of 19, the case lasted no more than 25 days and ended with issuing two death sentences.

-Al-Shawkiyeen case lasted 59 days and ended with issuing four death sentences.

-The case of Talaie Al-Fath (Vanguards of Conquest) – part one- in which eight were sentenced to death lasted 67 days.

-The quickest case was trying those charged of attempting to assassinate the Minister of Information, as it lasted 19 days and ended with issuing death sentences against six defendants.

-There is also the quick case of assassinating officer Ali Khater in Alexandria which lasted no more than 10 days and sentenced to death the only defendant in the case.

3-Date of Starting Military Tribunals In Modern Age

Transferring civilian suspects in terrorism cases to military tribunals in Egypt started when president Hosni Mubarak issued a decision of referring 48 suspects in the cases of the returnees from Afghanistan and the Jihad Organization to the Supreme Military Tribunal in Alexandria in late October 1992. The court sentenced death sentences against eight defendants, including seven fugitives. This took place on Dec., 3rd 1992, although the Administrative Court in the State Council issued a ruling on Dec., 8, 1992, of canceling the decision of referring the defendants to the Supreme Military Tribunal according to Article 6 of the military law that did not entitle the president to refer specific cases or specific persons that were included in the presidential decree.

4-Well-Known Military Tribunals Against the Muslim Brotherhood

Starting from 1995, seven military tribunals were held against Muslim Brotherhood leaders, the latest of which was transferring Eng. Khairat Al Shater and 39 Muslim Brotherhood leaders to a military tribunal, to rais to 180 the number of MB members referred to this unconstitutional tribunal. The following table shows military courts against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) from 1995 to 200:7

A table shows military courts against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB)



Ruling Date

No. Defendants






Nov., 22, 1995




Sentenced 3-5 yrs



Nov., 22, 1995




Sentenced 3-5 yrs



Nov., 20, 1995




Sentenced 15 yrs



August, 14, 1996




Sentenced 1-3 yrs



Nov., 9, 2000




Sentenced 3-5 yrs



July, 20, 2002




Sentenced 3-5 yrs



Feb., 6, 2007



Tribunal not held yet








This is a little part of a painful reality that the Egyptian people are living under the rule of Mubarak’s terrorist regime that ignored all Egyptian and international laws to maintain power, even if the cost is to survive on the ruins of the Egyptian people.