Human Rights Group Slams Egypt ’s Anti-Terrorism Law, Military Courts
|Friday, March 21,2008 13:23|
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) expressed its astonishment over Egyptian government"s anti-terrorism law, questioning the goal from this new law although the phenomenon terrorism vanished or at least receded to a great extent inside Egypt . The FIDH called also for adhering to judicial supervision for all arrest and probation measures.
The FIDH announced- in a press conference held in the Egyptian Press Syndicate- that it submitted a memo over anti-terrorism measures and human rights situation in Egypt , criticizing the absence of a government representative both in the FIDH conference and in meetings of the Judges" Club .
The FIDH called on the Egyptian regime to put a clear and accurate definition for terrorism and terrorist crime. It stressed that the new anti - terrorism law must include a clear ban on torture and maltreatment, a frank ban on illegal detentions, securing legal procedures necessary for terrorism suspects, securing a fair trial in addition to putting a clear definition for incitement or supporting terrorism crimes and securing privacy rights.
Bahiyuddin Hussein, the director of the Cairo Center for Human Rights, said:" Terrorism in Egypt has already stopped after Luxor massacre, the last terrorist operation that happened years ago. What happened after this operation were limited operations whose committers were immediately uncovered. There is no terrorist organization in Egypt for the time being specially after the two organizations that committed terrorist attacks in the 1980s and 1990s have declared their repentance and rejection to terrorism and released books of reviews in which they documented their repentance under support and approval of the security services".
Judge Hisham Al Bastawisi, deputy chief justice of the Court of Cassation pointed out that expanded meetings were held in the Judges" Club to discuss the anti-terrorism law. These meetings drew judges, human rights activists, experts of civil society organizations and delegates of various intellectual and political movements in Egypt except for the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
He added that these meetings led to the conclusion of rejecting the anti-terrorism bill because Egypt doesn"t need such a law for several reasons the most prominent of which- according to Al Bstawesi- are: that Egypt does not face terrorism nowadays, that the militant groups declared juristic reviews and condemned all actions of violence inside and outside Egypt, and that the Interior Ministry coordinated with those previously militants groups and managed to lead them the right path through dialogue, not through using the penal code or the emergency law. Add to this the fact that terrorism has been exercised for long years under the state of emergency and these operations ony came to a halt through dialogue, not through the emergency law. He added that violence and the language of arms are a result of a weak practicing of democracy.
"Only one single party is controlling over the political life giving no space to opposition parties to practice their activities, because if they did so, they will face the emergency law and the anti-terrorism law. The excessive protection, the siege imposed on freedoms and the dimming hopes towards any intellectual dialogue, leading to depriving the legal text of its respect among those calling for implementing it while they are among the first to violate it. Even the government stopped short of implementing it, giving a fertile soil for the emergence of extremism and violence", Al Bstawesi said.
"Because we know that the government allows to say what we want and do what we want and then it does it wants, we decided to give advice to government".
The Egyptian judge confirmed that there is an international debate over a definition for terrorism and terrorist crime, while Egypt "s definition of terrorism has become " any person who tries to attack government". Thus any person criticizing rulers is under this definition. This is because the definition approved and mentioned in the Arab agreement is too loose a definition that does not give an accurate definition for terrorism. Lawmakers added even more items to end any political opposition through putting them under the definition of terrorism.
Al Bstawesi pointed out that article 88 is badly worded because it has an implicit meaning other than the explicit one. It was giving the judges the supervision on elections then it was amended to exclude them. As for article 179, it was amended to also exclude judges from supervising terrorist crimes and its legal procedures including evidence. Thus most articles of the constitution have been amended to exclude any judicial supervision and to deprive the judges of their independence.
"All these actions mainly aim to give a procedural legitimacy to law and to give the president the right to refer terrorism cases to military courts or any other incompetent courts, through excluding the terrorist crime from any previous judicial supervision related to arrest measures, gathering of evidences and other pretrial measures. This leads to denying defendants in these cases any guarantees.
Al Bastawisi said he noticed in all definitions of terrorism and terrorist cases, even international definitions, that they lack "militant" which distinguishes the terrorist crimes from other violence crimes. Militancy gives meaning to terrorism, the target of changing political or ideological situations through the use of arms.
He confirmed that the judiciary in Egypt lost its independence as an institution but there are Egyptian judges who are still retaining their independence. Unfortunately, Egyptian lawmakers sought any loophole to avoid such independent judges in constitution or in laws. Thus, they made a parallel judiciary to totally exclude independent judges.
For his part, Hafez Abu Seada, director of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said:" Secrecy is so outlandish in this anti-terrorism bill. The regime insists on keeping it secret. It was first published in the form of 16 articles in a newspaper and it was said it is an initial draft but authorities denied it and we still know nothing about its articles. Why is this bill shrouded in mystery?!.
He added that article 179 has been amended to exclude the terrorist crime from guarantees of the Egyptian constitution articles that include: Not allowing arrest, hosting, or searching houses, cars or offices without permission from authorities or the prosecution. This exception actually opens the door wide for violating privacies, freedoms and human rights. According to this amended article 179, all guarantees are excluded and pointing a finger of accusation that this is a terrorist crime means dropping all legal procedures and all guarantees of transparency in arrests, gathering evidence, directing charges and investigation measures. This means that disagreement in political views or trends means there is a violation of law because these opponents may be categorized as " committers of a terrorist crime" to refer them to special-not civil-courts.
Hafez confirmed that the judge in the military courts does not care for procedural measures (arrest measures – arrest method- torturing) which if proved may mar and question all the case because the case is based on illegal measures and rulings are based on certainty not doubt.
He said also that the constitution amendments freeze 3 items of the human rights law, including the citizen"s right to stand trial before civil courts. He also confirmed that all amendments are against Egyptian human rights. There is a strange paradox that hasn"t happened in any other country: That human rights activists in Egypt prefer that we remain in a state of emergency than we move to the new anti-terrorism law which mainly aim to turn the state of emergency from a temporary state of emergency to an everlasting state of emergency.
Ragi Sourani, the deputy chairman of Federal International for Human Rights voiced his rejection any form of military trials. Working as a lawyer for 5 years for Palestinians against military trials in Israel , he said that human rights reject such trials.
Around the military trial measures against Muslim Brotherhood deputy chairman, Khairat Al Shater and other Brotherhood leaders standing before the military court, judge Hisham Al Bstawesi said:" All these measures are illegal. It is illegal to refer any civilian to stand before a military court.
"Any military trial against any civilian is illegal, even if it was upon a presidential decree", he said pointing out that the anti-terrorism law has been formed to protect the regime, not to protect people.