By Ali Al-Bassam
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
CAIRO, Egypt — On Wednesday, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi issued a new decree granting the military the power to arrest anyone for a temporary period, in what is seen as a response to protests regarding the recent constitutional decree.
Last Saturday, Morsi participated in a national dialogue and rescinded the constitutional decree issued last November which received criticism for its granting of executive powers. Morsi issued a new constitutional decree, which will be the subject of a referendum scheduled to proceed on December 15 despite protests demanding its cancellation.
Morsi’s intention in granting arresting powers to the army was to ensure “the protection of vital installations in the country.” The army will have the right to arrest civilians until the results of the constitutional referendum are announced.
Opponents fear that the decree is an indication that Egypt may move back into military rule, but Morsi said that the intention of the decree is to assist the police force which is considered to have weakened considerably since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak. The decree itself requests the military to coordinate with the police for the sake of keeping the peace until the referendum passes, stating that “[T]he armed forces must support the police service in complete cooperation in order to preserve security and protect vital state institutions for a temporary period…”
Mohamed Lofty from Amnesty International Egypt said that it is necessary to read the law in conjunction with the powers granted to the general prosecutor, which Lofty said, “allows detainees to be held for six months in an effort to “protect the revolution.” Lofty believes that the crimes considered to harm the revolution “are broadly defined and therefore threaten the freedom of the media, the freedom to assemble, and the freedom of workers to strike.” “Along with the new law for the military,” said Lofty, “it is a dangerous combination.”
Last Monday, the military increased their presence near the presidential palace,deploying tanks and building a concrete wall to seal off the palace, where a majority of the protesting has occurred.
Opposition groups remain unfazed, and have called for protests against the referendum to continue on Tuesday. In an interview with the BBC, former Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said that the opposition’s goal was to not topple Morsi, but to let him know their demands for a better constitution. “The National Salvation Front announces its total rejection to the referendum and will not legitimize this referendum which will definitely lead to more strife,” said Same Ashour on behalf of the coalition of Opposition Parties.
For further information, please see:
Al Bawaba — Morsi’s Military Might Grants Egypt’s Army Power to Arrest Protesters — 10 December 2012
BBC News — Egypt Crisis: Morsi Gives Army Arrest Powers Before Vote — 10 December 2012
The Daily News Egypt — Army Officers can Temporarily Arrest Civilians — 10 December 2012
Foreign Policy — Morsi Gives the Egyptian Army the Authority to Make Arrests — 10 December 2012
The Statesman — Morsi Gives Army ‘Police Powers’ Ahead of Referendum — 10 December 2012