World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt's newly elected president must order an end to military trials of civilians to bring the country in line with international law, campaign group Human Rights Watch said in a report on Sunday.
Egypt's army generals handed over power to the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi last month but kept parts of the state apparatus under their control, limiting the president's influence over the military.
At least 12,000 civilians, including children, have been tried by military courts behind closed doors since the uprising in January last year that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak - more than in Mubarak's three-decade rule, according to rights groups.
"Now is the time for President Mursi to carry out his promises to end military encroachment on civilian decision-making and uphold human rights by ending military trials of civilians once and for all," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement.
If there was evidence that a civilian had committed a crime, they should be tried by a civilian court, she said.
Mursi formed a panel this month headed by a judge to investigate cases of civilians convicted by military courts.
The committee said 2,165 civilians remained imprisoned after being sentenced, according to the military, and recommended they be pardoned by the president.
"International law is crystal clear on this - no civilian, regardless of the crime, should be tried by a military court. It doesn't take a committee to confirm that," Whitson said.
HRW said the most recent figures issued by the military judiciary on the number of civilians tried by military courts did not appear to be accurate as they had not been updated since last year despite ongoing arrests and trials of civilians.
The group's report cited the case of three political activists who were arrested on Thursday and detained for four days after taking part in a peaceful protest near the home of the head of the military police. The activists are members of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, it said.
It also cited the sentencing on July 9 of eight protesters - one aged 16 - by a Suez military court, for using fireworks that could be considered explosives at a protest. The sentences ranged from six months to three years, the group said.
"The Muslim Brotherhood's position on ending military trials of civilians is already in doubt after their failure to any way limit the military's right to continue referring civilians to military courts," Whitson said.
"(Mursi's) committee will not have the mandate to look at these more recent cases because it will only look at convictions up until June 30, 2012," the report said, referring to the date when the army officially handed over power.
The report said a presidential pardon was the only way an unfair decision by a military court could be overturned.
1 million people have signed a petition calling for UK to hold 2nd EU referendum
The chain reaction from the UK vote to leave the EU has begun already with far-right parties calling for their own countries to leave the EU
Just one day after Mahmoud Abbas accused rabbi's of calling on the Israeli government to poison Palestinian water, he has retracted the charge saying it was "baseless" lie
Uzbekistan is the proud home to a spellbinding arsenal of architecture and ancient with magnificent cities boasting a beautiful mosaic of ancient history and a modern outlook
For Muslims, East Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque represents world’s third holiest site
Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steimeier has said that it was important to heed the expectation from people and that the EU must not fall into a depression
The Mexican government will cut spending this year by a further $1.7 billion in support of its deficit-reduction targets
The UK has had its credit rating outlook downgraded to "negative" by the ratings agency Moody's after UK voted to leave the EU.
A car bomb exploded on Friday night evening in front of the visitors’ entrance at Benghazi’s Jalaa Hospital killing four people.
A wildfire has burnt more than 30,000 hectares that has prompted a state of emergency
Gudni Johannesson looks set to win Iceland's presidential election.
Ramadan is a time where Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset, and in Sudan, the breaking of the fast is unique for travelers who are encouraged to join in the communal meal.
Spaniards will head to the polls once on Sunday after an inconclusive national election last December
A stunned EU has urged Britain to leave as "soon as possible" amid fears the devastating blow to European unity could spark a chain reaction for other departures
Abandoning Europe could mean anything from a sweeping withdrawal from EU institutions to more limited opt-outs.
Turkish Prime Minister says bloc should analyze UK's EU referendum process very well for its own future