The authorities in Egypt insists on referring civilians to military tribunals based on their political affiliations with complete disregard to their civil rights of standing before fair and transparent and unbiased civilian courts. Despite defendants being civilians the authorities continue to refer them to martial courts simply on the grounds of their affiliations demonstrating oppression and injustice as harsh prison sentences and terms are issued.
HRM has witnessed these unfair trials without integrity or transparency; the latest being the case where 507 civilians from Beheira were served sentences recently in what can be regarded as the largest military case in terms of the number of defendants. Harsh and unfair sentences were issued including life in prison and many of the defendants were minors.
According to the Protection Service laws regarding passing civil cases before military trial, which has been modified in the Egyptian constitution following the events of June 30,2013 on the inappropriateness of the trial of civilians before military courts which states this could be deployed when there is a direct attack on the Armed Forces’ facilities, camps, military areas, borders, equipment, vehicles, weapons, ammunition, documents, military secrets, public funds, or factories; or draft-related crimes, or direct assaults on personnel and their families and the law will define such crimes and determine the jurisdiction of the military judiciary; however this has not been the case but in the crimes that represent a direct assault on the military installations or armed forces or military camps or border areas , in order to legitimize the referral of civilians to military jurisdiction , even if those charges and flimsy malicious did not occur .
It is apparent to HRM that the defendants in the Hosh Eissa police station arson case included 69 defendants tried while present while 90 others were tried in absentia. Twenty defendants were served 15 year sentences while the other 69 were served 10 years, 7 others were issued 5 years in prison and life sentences were served to 90 others who were tried in absentia.
In an effort to save face in front of the international community and human rights organizations the military court issued an innocent verdict to 17 defendants present and four others in absentia accused of being involved in the arson.
The second part of the military case included defendants charged with vandalism in front of the Beheira council building. Thirty three defendants were served 15 year sentences, 22 were served 10 years, 35 others were given 7 year sentences, 11 were given 5 year sentences and 160 tried in absentia were given life sentences.
Thirty-three defendants were deemed innocent by the military court hoping to demonstrate some sort of justice and integrity although other harsh sentences failed to reflect so. In fact three minors were served a 15 year prison sentence raising the number of collective prison years of 453 defendants to more than 7000 years.
HRM has looked into the file where events dating back to the Rabaa and Nahda dispersal which took place on August 13, 2013 were documented where the Egyptian authorities accused the defendants in the case of setting fire to the governorate building, possession of weapons and inciting riots, just as it the accused others of burning the police station in Hosh Eissa .
According to HRM civilians in Beheira had participated in a protest condemning the dispersal in from of the governorate's building and Hosh Eissa police station after 5 Beheira citizens were killed by security forces in the early hours of the protest's dispersal. Protestors were peaceful without weaponry and they were surprised to find a fire had broken out inside the building away from the protestors' assembly. A few minutes later security forces began randomly arresting protestors accusing of more than 300 citizens of arson.
As for the Hosh Eissa protest where 3 protestors were killed by security forces' bullets tens of civilians were arrested and charged with a host of fabricated charges including murder and rioting. Up to 207 citizens were listed in the case despite the victims killed by police and military bullets were from their side and among them.
The detainees from both cases continued to have their cases heard by an unfair court with detentions renewed without justification for more than 18 months. They were detained in difficult conditions and were subjected to violations during their detention and up to the date of their sentences being a complete violation to laws and international conventions and agreements in addition to breaching the law in Egypt.
This inexcusable judicial crime by the Egyptian authorities were civilians are tried by a military tribunal is a violation to international law. According to article 14 in the international convention of political and civil rights all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals. In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
Hence for its part HRM calls for the sentences to be revoked and for a retrial in front of a transparent and just civil court monitored by an international committee to guarantee integrity and justice. Furthermore it calls for improved conditions for detainees in the case.
HRM also states it is significant that an international committee oversee trials in Egypt especially as the Egyptian judiciary rules over defendants regardless of being men, women or children in accordance to their political affiliations an unprecedented policy in all of Egypt's history. Thousands of verdicts have been issued ranging from death sentences, life in prison and many years in prison in addition to fines in front of civil and military courts. HRM highlights that many of the cases heard have been without legal support with unfair sentences served simply because of their affiliations and opposing the authority,