Supreme Military Court Sentences Minor to Death... EIPR Urges Immediate Suspension of the Sentence and a Full Review of Cases Heard by the Military Judiciary

Press Release

17 May 2011

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) is deeply troubled and concerned about the death sentence issued by the Supreme Military Court against four persons convicted of kidnapping and assaulting a young woman (case no. 390/2011/East Cairo/criminal). The sentence of death by hanging was issued yesterday, 16 May, 2011. Even more troubling, one of the defendants in the case is a minor (age 17). His sentence thus contravenes the Egyptian Child Law, the Code of Military Justice and, of course, international law.

“The death sentence issued against the minor A.M.M., one of four defendants, illustrates the ignorance of the military judiciary in civil and criminal law alike,” said Adel Ramadan, Legal Officer at the EIPR. “This raises strong doubts about the competence of the military judiciary to prosecute civilians in crimes under public law.”

Article 111 of the Child Law, amended with Law 126/2008, states: “A defendant under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of the crime shall not be sentenced to death, life imprisonment or imprisonment with hard labor.” The sentence also contravenes Article 8 of the Code of Military Justice, which states that no minor may be tried before a military court unless a partner in the crime falls under the jurisdiction of the Code of Military Justice as defined in Article 4 of the same law. This condition does not apply in the current case as all the defendants are civilians.

This case also lends further support to appeals from the EIPR and other human rights organizations to reconsider the prosecution of civilians before military courts, which denies them their right to appear before a civilian judge in accordance with well-accepted norms of justice.

At the same time, this case highlights the danger of the lack of information about those sentenced to death by military courts, which have almost entirely supplanted the civilian judiciary for criminal prosecution since the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces assumed responsibility for the country’s affairs in February. Moreover, these trials do not provide genuine fair trial guarantees that allow defendants to fully defend themselves, including by choosing lawyers they trust, as well as all other due-process guarantees.

Ramadan added, “The danger is even greater when the military judiciary, with its susceptibility to errors, begins determining whether a person is deserving of life. This is starkly clear in the case of A.M.M., whose life, dreams and ambitions may be abruptly ended at the age of 17, and thus demands that we reconsider the case.”

The EIPR urges an immediate consideration of the sentence against A.M.M. and his retrial before a civilian judge, particularly since the sentence conflicts with both the Child Law and the Code of Military Justice. The organization also calls for an immediate suspension of all military trials for civilians on all charges, which violate international conventions ratified by Egypt - guaranteeing the right to a fair trial - as well as provisions in civil and military law regulating the referral of civilians to military courts.

The EIPR’s appeals to overturn these verdicts and re-try the cases before the civilian judiciary is based on the monitoring of court sessions and documented research efforts which have concluded that military trials in their current form violate entirely the letter and spirit of justice to which citizens are entitled.
In the coming days, the EIPR will issue a detailed report on these trials and the legal and human violations they entail, as well as several recommendations for alternative solutions that can be applied in the current conditions and which conform with international conventions while upholding due-process guarantees enshrined in the Egyptian Constitution and laws.