HRW raises concerns over Egypt law increasing military power News
© WikiMedia (Jonathan Rashad)
HRW raises concerns over Egypt law increasing military power

Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns Tuesday over new Egyptian laws which they say will “entrench military power over civilian life.” The new law allows some police and civilian judiciary functions to be taken over by the military. It also further expands the use of military courts to prosecute civilians.

Law No.3 requires the armed forces to guard and protect public facilities and buildings determined to be “vital.” All offenses against these public facilities and buildings are to be processed in military courts. The law grants the military police powers such as the ability to inspect and search places and confiscate materials for the purposes of confronting offenses that are threats to the basic needs of society. The law also allows the defense minister the power to determine tasks and distribution of military personnel.

The new laws give the military powers to manipulate the food market in order to protect the people’s access to food. The fear is that the use of this power could severely impact access to food in a nation that already deals with food insecurity. Egypt says that this authority is needed to “preserve fundamental pillars of the state, the people’s gains and rights, and to preserve and defend national security.”

The military plays an important role in Egyptian history. A long line of military dictatorships ended in 2011 when the Arab Spring revolt ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected in the revolt’s aftermath. In 2013, following nationwide protests against Morsi, then Minister of Defense Al-Sisi initiated a coup d’etat. Al-Sisi has remained the president of Egypt for the last 10 years, increasing the military’s role in society.

The Al-Sisi government has been continuously accused of imprisoning political critics of the government. Government critic Hisham Kassem was recently sentenced, with it being just the latest in a series of crackdowns on individuals expressing dissent through social media, particularly as the election date approaches.

HRW would like to see the end of civilian trials in front of military courts around the world.