Double standards in Egypt's politics

The treatment of Mubarak’s case has been condemned by Egyptians and human rights organisations.

The dismissal on technical grounds of the case against ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for failing to prevent violence that slew 846 protesters during the 2011 uprising was expected but it was followed by another court ruling to impose 188 death sentences on defendants for the killing of 13 in 2013.

These two decisions exposed the glaring double standard that has dominated Egypt’s political life for the past four years: Figures of the old regime escape justice while extreme punishments are inflicted on critics of the new regime headed by president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, a former army chief.

The treatment of Mubarak’s case has been condemned by Egyptians and Egyptian and international human rights organisations from left to right. Commenting on the verdict, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) wrote: “Justice was dealt another severe blow. The verdict entrenches impunity for gross human rights violations committed by security forces, yet again absolved of responsibility for killing, injuring and torturing protesters.” In addition to those killed the 18-day 2011 “revolution” there were 6,000 wounded and 16,000 imprisoned.

The EIPR pointed out that even after Mubarak had been detained in 2011, the public prosecutor failed to investigate his involvement in the crackdown and “was only forced to begin such [an] investigation after mass demonstrations.”

This was followed by a 2012 conviction and sentence of life imprisonment for Mubarak, his Interior Minister Habib El-Adly and six officials. The case against Mubarak was, the EIPR said, “found to be groundless” on the basis of procedural irregularities while Adly and his aides were acquitted. Their acquittal exonerated Mubarak, stated EIPR. Researcher Hoda Nasrallah said the verdict solidifies “the security institution's impunity and reflects the current political atmosphere.”

In an attempt to defuse public anger, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced that the government will continue efforts to recover illegal assets the former president had banked or invested abroad and prosecutor general Hisham Barakat launched an appeal of verdicts in the Mubarak cases of violence against protesters and corruption.

However, former editor of Masry al-Youm Hisham Kassem told The Deccan Herald that his aides had plenty of time during the 18-day uprising to erase evidence that he had ordered the deadly crackdown.

Seven secular parties have launched a campaign to reindict Mubarak and members of his regime. The campaign will initially involve a petition to be distributed on the internet and on the streets.

Egyptian legal experts contend that Mubarak can still be tried for political crimes. Revolutionary Front founder and executive committee member Rami Shaath said he could put forward a list of at least 30 crimes committed by Mubarak including corruption of public morals, destruction of the country's health, educational and physical infrastructure and failure to develop Sinai, a region gripped by a radical jihadi revolt, spurred by neglect and persecution.

The Front for the Protection of Journalists and Freedoms protested the Mubarak verdict on the steps of the journalists’ union and condemned police harassment. Some 400  journalists have signed a petition denouncing the media's capitulation to the state. Rasha Abdullah, a professor of journalism at the American University in Cairo, said there is “less diversity” of opinion expressed in the media than “we ever had in Egypt.”The media is now owned by businessmen associated with the Mubarak regime.  

Political space

The closure of “the political space” during the clampdown on dissent following the July 2013 ouster of elected President Muhammad Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart, has grave implications for Egypt. The government has not only abandoned the rule of law but also the “roadmap” drawn up after Morsi’s ouster. The presidential poll was held on time but parliamentary elections are long overdue and no date has been fixed. 

The controversial election law is under review, political parties are threatening to boycott the poll, and the country is being ruled by decree with no parliamentary oversight.
Failure to move forward on the political plane could make international and private investors reluctant to inject desperately needed funds into essential development projects which would benefit Egypt’s poor, 40 per cent of its 90 million people.

A conference, scheduled for March 2015, is meant to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. But this could fail to deliver if the government does not implement promised administrative reforms and come up with a plan to treble or quadruple the 2.2 per cent growth rate in order to provide for 2.6 per cent growth in population and build essential infrastructure.

Unless there are jobs and food and fuel at affordable prices, increasing numbers of disaffected young Egyptians could turn to radical fundamentalists linked to the Islamic State cult occupying large swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq. The Egyptian army is already battling Islamic State affiliate Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Sinai and the group has threatened to expand the battlefield to Egypt’s major cities where there are huge reservoirs of popular discontent which repression cannot stifle for ever.

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