Friday, April 13, 2007

Mubarak Wants Military Appeals Court

UPDATE: Check out the new blog covering the Mid East: Outsider On The Inside

A debate on the merits of a new bill is scheuled for this week in the Shura Council of Egypt's Parliament, proposing the creation of a military appeals court to be located in Cairo. Currently, only the President can overturn a decision by a military tribunal, which are often used to try political opponents to the President.
The proposed Supreme Military Appeals Court (SMAC), according to a Shura Council Legislative Committee report, will be located in Cairo and "comprise a board of five military judges, headed by the chairman of the Military Justice Authority". The court's main job will be to "decide on appeals filed by the military prosecution or by military and civilian personnel found guilty by military courts".

The SMAC bill has provoked mixed reactions. Chairman of the Shura Council's Legislative Committee Abdel-Rehim Nafie insists it is "a very civilised step" since it provides guarantees for those referred to military courts. "In setting up the SMAC President Mubarak intends to place military courts on an equal footing with civilian courts in terms of appeal rights."

Opposition and civil society figures are less sanguine over the proposed changes. Political analyst Fahmi Howeidi sees the new bill as symptomatic of the desire to "increase the number of civilians referred to military courts". Howeidi told the Weekly that adding "guarantees and the right to appeal against military court rulings is like mixing honey with poison".

An appeals court, which I assume is supposed to gain the trust of the people in the system. So Egyptians, rejoice! Thank the President! You no longer have to worry about Mubarak coming after you, with his freshly-passed anti-terror legislation under which he has the power to detain you without telling anyone, for as long as he wants, for whatever reason he wants. But consider this: who will you demand your right of appeal from, the same man who authorized your detention and torture? Will the President decide to honor your rights, after he abused them only a few weeks ago with the sham that was known as the constitutional referendum?

More on Egyptian politics, and the paradox of religion here.

Update: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry responds to the allegations of prisoner abuse by a recent report from Amnesty International:
"The Egyptian government is offended by the latest report which included inaccurate and biased information about the state of human rights in Egypt,"
Not as offended as the abused prisoners, I assume. Once again Egypt brushes off criticism, and no word from the United States.

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