- Human RightsMilitary TribunalPrisoners of Conscience
- December 13, 2007
- 6 minutes read
Military Tribunals & International HR Watchdogs
On Feb. 6th, 40 Muslim Brotherhood leaders, headed by MB 3rd-in-command Eng. Khairat El-Shater and MB Executive Bureau Member Dr. Muhammad Ali Bishr, who were pending under a high state security case, have been referred to military justice pursuant to a presidential decree.
Up to this day, 16 military trial sessions held for the MB leaders, mostly monitored by international watchdogs and representatives of high-profile HR bodies that were denied access into the courtroom at all.
The second trial session was highly attended by human rights activists and representatives such as Haitham Manna’, spokesman of the Arab Human Rights Commission, Dr. Anis Qassim & Hassibah Sahrawi, representatives of Amnesty International, Eligah Zoran, a Human Rights Watch consultant and chairman of the Turkish Bar Association & independent HR and legal activists as Dr. Faisal Kutty from Canada. After being denied access, the human rights group stated that the way the Egyptian Authorities treat human rights activists and representatives “would have serious repercussions.” Notably, this was the first international rights group to come for attending the military tribunal and barred from the courtroom.
In his statement to www.ikhwanweb.com , the Muslim Brotherhood English Website, Dr. Kutty comments on the fairness and impartiality of such military tribunals saying, “The government is basically running that tribunal. I don’t think this would be really satisfying because eventually if you have the executive which is the president appointing the military tribunals and taking such decision, how would that be independent or impartial?! Certainly there is no independence, and there is no impartiality.”
The third session observed by Ex U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, former Queen’s Counsel and British MP Ivan Lawrence, UK Award-winning journalist & HR activist Yvonne Ridley, CEO of Justice International Dr. Mohie-Eddine and Amnesty International representative Sameeh Kharais, while a UK Attorney and international legal activist Ali Azhar denied entrance to Egypt by the security apparatus without reason.
In the internationally-covered press conference, Clark affirmed “It is pitiful to see a great people like the Egyptian people with a government so afraid, so afraid of its own position in power that it continuously persecutes the Muslim Brotherhood. It is highly political, obviously” he said. Ridley described the Brotherhood’s trial as “unprecedented” and a “miscarriage of justice” adding that the hearing “brought shame on the Egyptian government.”
On August 5th, Dr. Violette Daguerre, General Coordinator of the Paris-based Arab Human Rights Committee, who came to observe the fourth session along with the Amnesty’s Sameeh Kharais, commented on those trials saying: “These military tribunals are just a false unreal political tribunal, and it has nothing to do with conventional tribunals. It is just a farce and a comical play.” On his part, Sameeh Kharais, described those trials as “politically-motivated travestying of justice” adding “What happened defames the trial and the Egyptian government’s interests because Amnesty’s presence could have added legitimacy to the procedure.”
UNHRC Envoy Ammar Al-Qirbi, who attended the 5th, 6th, 9th and 10th session and, by the way, denied access affirmed that those military tribunals against Muslim Brotherhood are “taxes the group pays for its political success.”
After being barred from the 5th and the 6th sessions alike, Mr. Mahdi Bray, CEO of the US-based MAS Freedom Foundation and famous human rights activist, stated in the press conference saying “whether in Egypt or the USA, whether the dissidents are Islamist or secular, the use of military tribunals to persecute and imprison lawful dissidents and activists constitutes a grave violation of international law that we will continue to challenge.”
Past president of the American National Lawyers Guild Bruce Nestor announced, before a press conference for assessing the situation after being banned from the courtroom that the Egyptian regime went into extremes along with the US government in violating basic human rights, calling upon the two to abide by the HR treaties and pacts they signed. “The military tribunal insists on slapping the defendants with unfair verdict” he said.
As happened with his comrades Violette and Ammar, Mr. Abdul-Rahim Khammaza, who serves as a secretary-General of the Syrian Human Rights Commission and a member of the Arab Human Rights Commission, denied access to the court in its 12th session. In his statement, Ghammaza stressed on the political impetus behind these trials saying: “those military tribunals are outlawed while used as a tool for political liquidation”
After denying him access to the 15th military tribunal session, Dr. Khurrum B. Wahid, a well-known American legal activist, has stated that preventing him from getting in clearly proves that “the court case is totally political!” adding “I’m not here for defending Muslim Brotherhood. I came here for monitoring fairness, but, unfortunately, I was prevented from doing so.”
The same applied to Mrs Rosalie P. Jeter, who accompanied Dr. Khurrum to the court. Rosalie, a civil society activist and the Founder and Executive Director of the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development (MWIRD), stated “Preventing us from attending today’s session proves the illegality of such session.” And wondered “What does the Egyptian government hide inside the court?! Preventing us from attending the sessions is a clear proof that the government is hiding something wrong.”
Note-worthy, this is regarded the seventh military trial against MB members under Mubarak regime. That kind of justice is well known for quick trials and arbitrary sentences, heedless to the internationally-defined criteria for fair trials.