News / Middle East

Missing Transitional Justice in Egypt’s Transition

Egyptian Security Forces Detain Suspected Muslim Brotherhood Supporters
Egyptian Security Forces Detain Suspected Muslim Brotherhood Supporters
Mohamed Elshinnawi
Over the past three years Egypt has lurched from crisis to crisis. Many Egyptians who participated in the euphoric protests that brought an end to Hosni Mubarak’s thirty-year rule returned to the streets earlier this year in mass protests that helped lead to the ouster of Egypt’s first popularly elected President, Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.  Now with a foundering economy, political repression on the rise and Egyptians divided as never before many are asking what went wrong.

Experts believe one of the major stumbling blocks on Egypt’s road to democracy has been the absence of transitional justiceas Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Senior Associate at the New York based International Center for Transitional Justice explains.

“Such justice should have been administered and should have included prosecution of offenses committed under former regimes, reparations for victims, establishment of truth commissions and implementation of reforms, both in the judiciary and law enforcement sectors,” he said.

Abdel Dayem says that the only components of transitional justice that Egypt carried out were the flawed criminal trails of deposed President Hosni Mubarak and some former officials who served in his government.  He says the trials failed to meet a basic condition of transitional justice which is to rebuild social trust by repairing a fractured justice system. 

“The problem was that the people who were tasked with collecting much of the evidence were the very same people who participated in human rights violations of the past, so it was not a surprise that there is a need for a retrial of Mubarak and his aides.” Abdel Dayem said.

He anticipates another challenge to transitional justice as the trial of former president Mohamed Morsi starts next month.

“To try the deposed president in isolation from all other elements of transitional justice is a repetition of the same ad hoc approach that protracted the transition.” Abdel Dayem warned “Many of the players who participated in those very violations that Egypt is trying to put an end to remain in power in one way or another and they will try to subvert transitional justice in its entirety.”  

Interim government efforts at transitional justice fail

Ahmed Morsy, an Egyptian researcher at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland argues that even after Interim President Adli Mansour appointed Judge Mohamed Elmahdi as Egypt’s first-ever Minister of Transitional Justice few steps have been taken to implement transitional justice measures.

“Many Egyptians hoped that their long list of abused rights could find justice, but until now very little has been accomplished.” Morsy said.

According to Morsy the Egyptian government has attempted several times to establish independent commissions to investigate killings and abuses of protestors, but none has appeared efficient, sincere, or transparent. These include a fact-finding commission investigating the deaths of protestors during the January 25 revolution -- formed last year by Mohamed Morsi.

“The latest episodes in Egypt’s wobbly transition, particularly the imprisonment of the deposed Morsi and the death of over 50 Egyptians at the Republican Guards’ club on July 8, might suggest that Egypt has missed the chance for transitional justice.” Ahmed Morsy argued.

Michael Hanna, a fellow at the New York based The Century Foundation says transitional justice in Egypt has been characterized by fundamental lack of transparency and popular participation.

“The interim government’s commitment to accountability has appeared to fluctuate in relation to the level of public outrage and protest, and lacked an articulated rationale for its course.” Hanna said “There has also been insufficient public discussion of the direction of transitional justice efforts.”

Hanna says needed reforms of the Egyptian security sector have been largely cosmetic and have had little or no impact on the all-important Interior Ministry. Endemic problems at the ministry will persist, he says, without a more consistent effort at inculcating respect for the rule of law, and reforming police education and training.

Abdel Dayem agrees and says “Everybody knows that one of the major factors that precipitated the uprising in January 2011 and the additional rounds of civil unrest was police brutality and lack of accountability for abuse by state agents, so Egypt’s transition needs to put an end to impunity.”

And Ahmed Morsy concludes, “The longer the Egyptian government does not address its citizens’ grievances and genuinely reform its institutions, the higher the chances for a cyclical recurrence of mass protests, violence, and a gross accumulation of grievances without redress.”

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs