Military courts in Egypt have tried at least 7,420 civilians since October 2014, international watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed Wednesday, highlighting mass trials that “violate fundamental due process rights”.
Citing numbers tallied by independent rights group the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, HRW denounced the Egyptian government’s use of military trials to “expedite its harsh crackdown on opponents”.
The report said most of the defendants were sentenced after mass trials, and some courts relied on confessions extracted under torture, according to testimonies from the relatives of the defendants.
Deputy Middle East director at HRW Nadim Houry said: “Apparently unsatisfied with tens of thousands already detained and speedy mass trials that discarded due process in the name of national security, al-Sisi essentially gave free rein to military prosecutors,” adding “he has handed back to the military judiciary the powerful role it enjoyed in the months after Egypt’s uprising, when the nation was governed by a council of generals.”
“Most of those charged in military courts were transferred there because the broad provisions of Al-Sisi’s law essentially put all public property under military jurisdiction, not because they committed crimes involving the armed forces,” the report continue, referring to the anti-terrorism law that was issued in October 2014.
The law, widely condemned by civil rights NGOs, stipulated that public buildings and facilities, including “electricity networks and stations, gas pipes, oil fields, railways, road and bridge networks, as well as other buildings, utilities and public property and anything that is considered as such” are considered “vital” facilities and thereby fall under the “security and protection” of the military judiciary.
HRW’s annual report for 2015 stated that at least 3,000 persons have been charged or sentenced before military courts. Other reports, however, place the actual number at much higher.
“The referral of so many civilians to military courts is an attempt by Egyptian authorities to provide a judicial rubber stamp for their crackdown,” Houry said. “But these military trials—often involving hundreds of civilians at a time—are neither fair nor credible.”