Daily News Egypt
By Sarah Carr
November 25, 2008
CAIRO: The Cairo Administrative Court Tuesday issued a ruling that bans the presence of police officers on Cairo University’s campus.
The verdict obliges the university to employ civilian personnel as security guards.
While the verdict only concerns Cairo University, its effect should extend to all Egyptian universities, Cairo University professor Abdel Galil Mostafa from the faculty of medicine told Daily News Egypt.
University campuses are currently policed by interior ministry personnel and police officers who have no link to the university in which they work and are not answerable to it.
Both students and professors complain of intense and continuous interference by police officers on campus in all aspects of university life, including academic affairs.
Individuals competing in the recently-held student union elections were “vetted” by security groups, and independent candidates from the Muslim Brotherhood and left-wing currents removed from the candidates’ list.
Earlier this month, two engineering students from Helwan University, Nagy Kamel and Mostafa Shawky, filed a legal complaint against police officers who physically assaulted them while they were attempting to enter the engineering faculty.
Both students are known members of the Socialist activist group, Resistance Students.
Kamel told Daily News Egypt that interference by security bodies in Helwan University is pervasive and that politically active students and their families receive threats from them.
The case had been brought by members of the March 9 Movement, a group of Cairo University professors who came together in March 2003 in protest of the US invasion of Iraq and who now press for university autonomy and academic freedom.
The administrative court upheld March 9’s challenge to the presence of police personnel on university campuses on the basis of its violating the Egyptian constitution and the universities law.
“Universities contribute to the elevation of thought, progress of science and development of human values … for this reason the Egyptian constitution has always guarded the independence of universities,” a summary of the ruling obtained by Daily News Egypt reads.
According to the summary, the court made reference to Article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution which protects university independence and Article 317 of the implementing statute of the Universities Law.
Article 317 provides that each university is responsible for creating its own security units.
The article provides that personnel employed in these units must wear identifiable uniforms and insignia and states that they report to, and receive their orders from, the university president directly.
The article limits the duties of this unit to protecting university buildings and forbids its interfering in academic life.
“No restrictions whatsoever may be placed on a university’s exercise of its activities since this undermines the university independence described in the constitution,” the summary reads.
The ruling provides that the absence of a security unit answerable to the president on Cairo University’s campus, and the presence of security personnel pursuant to a decree issued by the interior minister in 1981 is unconstitutional and has no basis in law.
Mostafa said that Cairo University’s administration is under an obligation to implement the verdict immediately.
“Legally speaking the decision should be implemented right away — even if the government decides that it wants to go through the complicated legal process of appealing this verdict,” Mostafa told Daily News Egypt.
“We’ll have an official copy of the ruling within a few days which we will present to the rector so that he can implement it,” Mostafa continued.