The New York Times reports:
The military council governing Egypt is moving to lay down ground rules for a new constitution that would protect and potentially expand its own authority indefinitely, possibly circumscribing the power of future elected officials.
The military announced Tuesday that it planned to adopt a “declaration of basic principles” to govern the drafting of a constitution, and liberals here initially welcomed the move as a concession to their demand for a Bill of Rights-style guarantee of civil liberties that would limit the potential repercussions of an Islamist victory at the polls.
But legal experts enlisted by the military to write the declaration say that it will spell out the armed forces’ role in the civilian government, potentially shielding the defense budget from public or parliamentary scrutiny and protecting the military’s vast economic interests. Proposals under consideration would give the military a broad mandate to intercede in Egyptian politics to protect national unity or the secular character of the state. A top general publicly suggested such a role, according to a report last month in the Egyptian newspaper Al- Masry Al- Youm. The military plans to adopt the document on its own, before any election, referendum or constitution sets up a civilian authority, said Mohamed Nour Farahat, a law professor working on the declaration. That would represent an about-face for a force that, after helping to oust President Hosni Mubarak five months ago, consistently pledged to turn over power to elected officials who would draft a constitution. Though the proposed declaration might protect liberals from an Islamist-dominated constitution, it could also limit democracy by shielding the military from full civilian control.
The Associated Press reports:
The military, which was greeted with cheers when it pushed out longtime president Hosni Mubarak in February, has proclaimed its embrace of the revolution and democratic elections later this year. But protesters have returned to Tahrir Square, holding a sit-in since July 8, to complain that the military has hijacked the transition and has been reluctant to purge members of the old regime.
Reported abuses add a darker undertone to those complaints. There have been multiple reports of torture of detainees. To an unprecedented extent, the army has also been bringing civilians before military courts, notorious for their swift rulings with little chance for defense. In five months, more than 10,000 civilians have been put on military trial, including protesters, activists and at least one journalist who wrote an article critical of the army, according to rights groups tracking the detentions.
“The revolution has been stolen by the military council,” said Issam, the long-haired “Singer of the Revolution” who is known for rousing the crowd in Tahrir Square with political tunes on his Spanish guitar. “We made the revolution and we gave it to the military council on a silver platter. But everyone must know that we have learned how to say ‘No.'”
Issam seemed close to tears as he visited the Egyptian Museum in early July for the first time since his detention and recounted his ordeal to an Associated Press reporter.
He was among dozens grabbed by soldiers who broke up a March 9 sit-in in Tahrir protesting the generals’ slowness in implementing the revolution’s post-Mubarak demands.
Issam and the others were dragged to the nearby museum, the treasure trove of pharaonic antiquities that the military used as an impromptu base at times during the uprising. There, Issam says, he was beaten by wooden sticks and iron rods and given electric shocks. His hair was cut off with broken glass.
After a public outcry over that day’s crackdown, the council promised to review reports of torture, but no results of a review have been made public. It also admitted that some detained women were forced to take humiliating “virginity tests,” and it said the practice would not be repeated.
Amid the beatings, Issam recalled the warning shouted at him by one of the officers:
“We will make you know who are the real masters of this country.”