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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs