Egypt's government extended the powers of military police and intelligence agents on Wednesday to allow them to arrest civilians for a wide range of offenses. The extension would remain in effect until a new constitution is in place.
Military officials said the
arrest powers are a temporary measure intended to fill a security vacuum
that arose from the uprising, when the police collapsed and disappeared
from the streets. Gen.
Adel el-Morsi, the head of military judiciary, told Al-Ahram 's website
that 'there is a need to put in place a law to regulate the
presence of army troops ... to enable them to secure presidential
elections or carry out security sweeps to arrest fugitives and outlaws.'
The decision was sharply criticized by human rights organisations. Sixteen rights groups said in a joint statement that the
decision 'doubles doubts' over the military's pledge to transfer power
to a civilian authority and reinforces suspicions that the 'transfer of
power will only be phony and won't prevent the military from remaining a
major player in political life.'
Activists warned the new arrest powers
recreate Egypt's notorious emergency law, which expired at the end of
May after 31 years in force. This is a declaration of martial
law, as if we are living in a banana republic,' said Gamal Eid, a prominent rights
Rights Watch researcher Heba Morayef called the decision 'shocking' and
said 'it is basically trying to confirm the fact that the military can
continue to be involved in law enforcement ... in the absence of