09-05-2011 by Linda S. Carbonell
Under pressure from civil rights activists, the military council which is running Egypt will end the use of military tribunals for civilians as quickly as possible, a top general announced on Monday. The official news agency, MENA, said, “General Adel al-Morsy, head of the Military Justice Commission, said that civilians will no longer be tried in military courts after the emergency law is lifted.” The council has insisted that, in the absence of an independent and impartial judiciary, the military tribunals have been the only way to cope with the repeated waves of demonstrations in the months since the February ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Mubarak regime used military tribunals under the 30-year-old emergency law to keep dissent down and terrify the population. Activists claim that as long as the tribunals are being used to try civilians, nothing has changed from the way it was under Mubarak. Up to 14,000 persons have been tried in this manner as the military council tries to deal with the demonstrations and clashes between religious and ethnic groups.
A large demonstration had been called for Friday on the issue of the military trials. The response to the announcement about the end of the tribunals was scepticism. Nabil Abdel Fattah, of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Reuters, “This is an example of the kind of reactions that the new Egyptian rulers have been giving ahead of calls for big protests to contain them. But I do not think it will work this time as the demand to end military courts for civilians is one of the oldest and most popular demands by democratic society in Egypt.” The council said last month that it will end the emergency law before the parliamentary elections in November. The demonstrations will proceed on Friday. Without a timetable for the termination of the emergency laws, the announcement is not being taken seriously.