Ministerial decree overturned
BY RANIA AL MALKY
Cairo: An administrative court Tuesday suspended a justice ministry decree allowing officers, non-commissioned officers of military intelligence and military police to conduct judicial arrest of civilians.
Decree No. 4991 for the year 2012, which was passed earlier this month, was challenged by five human rights organizations which described it as “worse than the state of emergency.”
The decree would have allowed military officers to illegally arrest civilians and subject them to military trial for such vague crimes as “resisting the rulers” and “non-compliance with their orders” as well as “verbal abuse” directed at them. It also targeted individuals involved in the “destruction of buildings and monuments and … disruption of transportation … intimidation and bullying.”
Rights groups further slammed the decree for violating the basic right to peaceful expression of opposing political views to the regime, the right to protest and to go on strike, or in demanding a change in law or even constitutional provisions, according to their official statement.
While President Elect Mohamed Mosri would have had the right to suspend the decree since his authority supersedes that of the justice minister, rights activist and director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights Hossam Bahgat told The Egypt Monocle that a strong rebuke from court would have a much stronger impact and set a precedent.
Lawyers challenged the decree on the basis that it contradicted Articles 8-17 of the interim constitution, which protect civil rights and liberties and warn against their violation.
They further objected to the fact that the decree meant that military police arrests would not fall under the jurisdiction of the public prosecution and hence would violate the civilians’ rights by subjecting them to military trials.
The decision came days before the runoff to the presidential election. It was also followed by a Supreme Constitutional Court ruling that dissolved parliament and what many have dubbed an illegal addendum to the interim constitution by SCAF, fueling public anger and accusing the ruling generals of conducting a soft coup against the democratic process.
Tens of protesters had been holding a sit-in for over a week in Cairo’s flashpoint Tahrir Square demanding the cancellation of the addendum and the reinstitution of parliament and the revocation of the justice minister’s decree.