[JURIST] Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi [BBC profile] on Monday ordered the military to work with the nation’s police to maintain security until the referendum on Saturday. This order, which leads up to the already controversial referendum on Egypt’s constitution, gives the military the power to arrest civilians [BBC report] and transfer them into detention for prosecution. When considered with the other powers given to the military and restrictions on expression [AI report], this will allow the military to arrest individuals for media offenses and “thuggery” and then transfer them to the prosecutor where they may be detained [Guardian report] for up to six months. This leads to further concern [AI report] over the military’s treatment of detainees. Morsi supporters claim this order was needed to preserve the peace amid minority opposition, a role the military regularly played under Hosni Mubarak [JURIST news archive], but they do not have that express power [Reuters report] under the new government.
Egypt’s revolution [JURIST backgrounder] last year has generated many political clashes, particularly regarding the draft constitution. This new decree comes only one day after Morsi revoked the expanded powers he gave himself [JURIST reports] late last month. Last week, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] expressed grave concern [JURIST report] at the rising death toll during the ongoing political chaos. Pillay complained that Egypt’s draft constitution passed without the participation of Christian or liberal legislators and that it omitted references to international human rights treaties that Egypt had ratified. Also last week, Egypt’s Supreme Judicial Council agreed to oversee the national referendum [JURIST report] on the country’s new constitution and planned to delegate about 10,000 judges to monitor the referendum. In late November Egyptian courts suspended work [JURIST report] to protest Morsi’s decree because it had removed judicial review of his actions. In October, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] urged Egypt to amend its proposed constitution [JURIST report] to comply with international treaties. In July, a few days after he was sworn in as president, Morsi issued a decree [JURIST reports] calling the Egyptian parliament back into session, despite a previous ruling by the Supreme Constitutional Court dissolving parliament after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally.