Human Rights Organizations Condemn the Trial of Civilians before Military Courts

Press Release

2 March 2011

The undersigned organizations today condemned a military tribunal's conviction of Amr Abdallah Abd el-Rasoul el-Beheiry (32 years) on March 1st on charges of assault of an officer and breaking curfew. The tribunal further sentenced him to a prison term of five years all within a period that did not exceed three days from the time of his arrest.
The signatory organizations to this statement stressed that civilians are not to be prosecuted and tried for non-military crimes before military tribunals composed of military officers, which is contrary to the basic rights of citizens to a fair trial. They also stressed that all international treaties ratified by Egypt affirm the adherence to the standards of a fair trial even in times of emergency and that no state has the right to derogate from this obligation.

The undersigned organizations express their deep concern over hundreds of trials that took place in the past few weeks since the outbreak of the Revolution on 25 January and that have been tainted with the suspicion of violating internationally agreed upon principles regarding fair and public trials.

In many of these cases, family members of the defendants were not able to visit their relatives or hire lawyers to defend them. In the cases where a lawyer was hired, the pace with which the trials took place, did not allow the lawyers much time to review case files or prepare an appropriate defense. The secrecy of the trial proceedings further aggravate the situation, as often the defendants' families are not informed of the time of the trial, or where their relatives are being detained, until after the verdict is issued.  

Amr Abdallah was arrested during the early hours of Saturday morning, 26 February, at a peaceful demonstration in front of the Council of Ministers building to demand the resignation of interim Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik. He was interrogated on Sunday, 27 February, and tried on Monday, 28 February without the presence of a lawyer appointed by his family. Furthermore, he was not allowed to contact any of his family members, eliminating any chances he had to make use of eye witness testimonies or to submit evidence for his innocence.

The signatory organizations to this statement plan to present a petition to the military officer charged with ratifying the decision, seeking the annulment of the court sentence and a retrial before a civilian court, where Amr Abdallah will be given the opportunity to seek counsel and witnesses, and the regular judicial system will be able to re-evaluate the events leading to his arrest and to reconsider the charges against him, in light of testimonies of witnesses who were not present during the first trial.   

While the undersigned organizations have resorted to this plea, time is of the essence as the military officer charged with ratifying the decision can make his decision at any point, according to the Military Justice Code (Law Number 25/1966).

The undersigned organizations also demand that the military officer charged with ratifying the decision not ratify any military sentences issued against civilians in non-military crimes, and that they be retried before civilian courts to guarantee their right to a fair trial.

Signatories to the statement:
1. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
2. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
3. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
4. Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
5. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
6. Hisham Mubarak Law Center
7. Al Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence