Discussion

Is there such a thing as justice in Egypt?

Justice is supposed to be impartial, and proportional. The sentencing of 529 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death in Egypt yesterday appears to be neither. The Arab Spring was supposed to be about the Arab countries opening up, becoming more democratic, and getting rid of dictatorships. Unfortunately in most of the places where revolutions took place it has been a false promise. Nowhere more so than in Egypt where after a brief period of control by a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government the Army took back control. They ousted President Morsi on 3rd July 2013 in what was effectively a coup replacing him with a transitional regime.

Since then the state and the army have been cracking down.  At least 16,000 Islamists have been arrested. Former President Morsi has been put on trial while his predecessor Hosni Mubarak, who had been imprisoned for the killings of protestors in the movement to oust him, was released. And yesterday came the sentencing of 529 of these people to death in a mass trial that lasted a mere two days. The mass sentencing is for the death of a policeman, so it seems both unlikely that all the people sentenced were directly guilty or that the sentence of death can be anything like proportional to the crime committed by all but a tiny minority. Amnesty International said that it calls into question the whole of Egypt’s criminal justice system.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui Amnesty International wrote:
This is the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences we’ve seen in recent years, not just in Egypt but anywhere in the world.

“Egypt's courts are quick to punish Mohamed Morsi's supporters but ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces. While thousands of Morsi's supporters languish in jail, there has not been an adequate investigation into the deaths of hundreds of protesters. Just one police officer is facing a prison sentence, for the deaths of 37 detainees.

“Without an independent and impartial process that can deliver truth and justice for all, many will question whether Egypt's criminal justice system has indeed anything to do with justice.

It is not just the scale and the speed with which the verdict was decided but how it came about that is highly dubious. The lawyer for the defence Ahmed Shabeeb claims the sentences were a result of the judge being told a hearing on Saturday was unconstitutional "He swore he'd give a verdict at the next session on Monday, and that is what happened. It is a reckless verdict that was borne from anger." The sessions were hardly long either; Saturday’s 45 minutes and Monday’s a mere five "And during those five minutes none of the lawyers or the defendants were listened to, not even the prosecution. The judge just came in to acquit [the 16] and sentence to death the others [529]".

No time for the defence to make a case, barely any time for the prosecution, very little evidence presented (regardless of how much evidence there may have actually been it needs to be presented). It makes a mockery of Egypt’s justice system. This is all the more the case when put in context by comparison to other recent sentencing; a police captain was found culpable for the death of 37 protestors and given only a 10 year prison sentence.

An even larger trial is starting today with 683 defendants in the same court. Let us hope that there is not such a gross distortion of the concept of justice in this one.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/24/egypt-morsi-supporters-death-sentence

https://www.amnesty.org/en/news/egypt-more-500-sentenced-death-grotesque-ruling-2014-03-24

Justice, after a coup? The muslim brotherhood may have been islamist but they should have been given more of a chance than they were. Every new government makes a few mistakes but many would right the problems later. Even if the muslim brotherhood did not then they would have failed so would have been voted out of office at the next election - which is how democracy is supposed to work.

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