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

Video Egyptian Journalists Call for Press Freedom

Despite release of al-Jazeera journalists and others, Egyptian Journalist Syndicate says some remain imprisoned More

Turkey Survey Indicates Traditional Distrusts, Shift to the West

Comprehensive public opinion survey also found a large majority of those interviewed distrust all countries other than country’s neighbor, Azerbaijan More

Pakistan Court Upholds Death Sentence in Blasphemy Killing

Highest court upholds sentence of Mumtaz Qadri convicted of 2011 killing a provincial governor for criticizing country’s controversial blasphemy law More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making a Minti
October 07, 2015 4:17 AM
While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs