Supreme Court upholds ban against police on campus

The Supreme Administrative Court upheld the ban against allowing police forces on university campuses on Monday, the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.

Monday’s ruling reinforced the same court’s 2010 decree that first stipulated the ban.

Earlier this year, lawyer Mortada Mansour had filed a suit with the Cairo Administrative Court to reverse the 2010 ruling, but was rejected. Mansour then filed an appeal the SAC, which rejected him yet again with Monday’s decision.

Allowing police in Egyptian universities has been a heated topic of debate in the student community since before the January 25, 2011 revolution. Security forces’ perceived interference with student activism and campus freedoms pushed a group of university professors to file a lawsuit with the SAC in 2010 to ban their presence on campus.

However, the government dragged its heels when it came to enforcing the judicial order. The police briefly withdrew from campuses following the revolution, only to return in 2013 following a deadly wave of on-campus protests following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi that summer.

Led by Mansour, supporters of the current administration have pointed to the violent confrontations between security forces and students allegedly affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood as urgent cause to allow the police back inside universities.

Student groups and faculty members across the country have fought back against these demands, ultimately prompting the Supreme Council of Universities (SCU) to hire a private firm called the Falcon Group to provide security.

Falcon — a company known for its state security affiliations, and which secured President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s presidential campaign activities — was virulently rejected by the student community. Since the start of the new school year in October, students have clashed with Falcon guards in protest against their presence, leading to the renewed intervention of police forces.

Also earlier this year, the Court of Urgent Affairs (CUA) issued a ruling that would allow security forces on campus to end what it called acts of terrorism committed by Brotherhood students.

Legally, however, that ruling is meaningless, rights lawyer Mokhtar Mounir told Mada Masr on Monday.

“The SAC decision is above any other court decisions. This decision is not part of the CUA’s jurisdiction. We all know that CUA decisions are politicized,” he explained.

Mounir, who works for the academic freedoms program in the Association of Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), hopes that Monday’s ruling will put an end to state security’s intervention in student activities.

“That’s what we hope for, yet we are not sure how the state will respond to this,” he cautioned.

Mounir recommended empowering administrative security guards hired by the university instead of resorting to expensive companies, like Falcon, or police forces.

“All that is needed is to better train administrative guards to deal professionally with any violence inside universities, instead of paying millions of pounds for a company like Falcon,” he explained.

Since 2013, more than 14 students have been killed in clashes with security forces during on-campus confrontations, with thousands more arrested and hundreds suspended, in the worst crackdown on campus freedoms in the last 70 years, according to estimations by AFTE.

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