RIGHTSView: EGYPT: From bastion of civilisation to THEATRE OF THE ABSURD

Posted by Emmanuel Onwubiko | 26 March 2014 | 3,390 times

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Since the popular uprising by millions of Egyptians that resulted in the forced removal of Dr. Mohammed Morsi and the formation of another civilian administration backed by the military hierarchy, several events have happened that have raised questions regarding the impartial role in the entire political debacle by the military.

One among the most prominent events that have brought Egypt into global disrepute is the decisive crushing by brute force of the mass demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood members, a Sunni Islamist religious and political platform which has a longstanding history.

Before I am misunderstood, it must be made clear that activities of the Muslim Brotherhood have come under increasing scrutiny for targeting followers of other religious faiths and members of this religious platform are seen more or less as fundamentalist Islamic adherents with little or no tolerance even for other sectarian groupings even within the same Islamic Religion.

With the above key preamble, let me observe that the Muslim Brotherhood was successful in the 2011 – 2012 parliamentary elections and its leader, the United States-trained Dr. Mohammed Morsi, won the June 2012 presidential poll. A year after he was sworn in, due to popular acclaim and the staging of another mass revolution, Mohammed Morsi was removed.

Morsi’s removal followed series of undemocratic moves the then Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament made to introduce theocracy and suppress the practice of democratic freedoms and liberal democracy. Under his watch secular Egyptians and Coptic Christians came under barbaric attacks by fundamentalists opposed to religious liberalism.

July 3, 2013 was the day in contemporary history that the Egyptian military chief, General Fattah el-Sisi, removed Mohammed Morsi from power and suspended the national Constitution. This decision nevertheless secured widespread legitimacy from a cross section of the Egyptian civilian populace in their millions which by far outstripped the number that actually voted and brought Mohammed Morsi and his now dethroned Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated administration to power before it collapsed like a pack of cards.

The military chiefs then set up an interim government which is charged with organising fresh election and the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Supreme Court of Egypt, Mr. Adly Mansour, was named the leader.

The massive crackdown of the demonstrators drawn largely from the Muslim Brotherhood has taken a bizarre dimension with the recent charade of a verdict of a Tribunal in which 500 or more members of the Muslim Brotherhood were convicted for the alleged murder of one policeman during a demonstration.

Apart from the fact that this sham that emanated from the Egyptian Court has drawn global condemnations, the fact that most of those sentenced to death never participated in any demonstration but were simply picked up from the comfort of their homes and driven in ramshackle vehicles to court, has made it all the more a mockery of the principle of social justice and the rule of law.

This verdict has created credibility question for the interim government which has largely operated under the shadows of the powerful Egyptian military hierarchy which is warming up to present its commander, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as a presidential candidate. This military chief has already started international political campaign to transmute into a civilian President as he was recently seen in the international media visiting some world leaders as if he is the defacto and de jure President of Egypt.

This judgment has not only turned logic on its head but it has also turned Egypt that used to be venerated as the bastion of ancient civilisation into a theatre of the absurd. It is absolutely absurd to conceive that 500 persons can plot the killing of just one policeman.

This verdict in which 500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death for the alleged killing of just one policeman is one of the greatest mathematical mysteries because it is absolutely unmathematical to calculate and conclude that five hundred are equal to one.      

But since the military-controlled political institution in Egypt is all out to crush members of the Muslim Brotherhood to pave the way for the return through the back door of a civilian administration headed by a venerated and powerful military oligarch, it does not matter if 500 lives are wasted with the infantile and warped logic that this huge crowd conspired, colluded and participated in the killing of one policeman.

Even the official state media in Egypt has branded this latest charade as the largest set of death sentences ordered by a court in the modern history of Egypt.

The Cairo-based Minya Criminal Court which handed out these primitive death sentences on Monday, March 24, 2014 can at best be described as the modern-day theatre of the absurd.

This is how even the Muslim-backed Malasia Sun newspaper of Monday, March 24, 2014 reported the mass death sentences: “The trial which resulted in Monday’s sentencing, only began on Saturday. The defense team was reportedly not allowed to make statements or objections, and the majority of the defendants were not allowed to attend the hearing.”

The newspaper also reported: “When the trial starts on Saturday and it is just a procedural hearing, and the judge doesn’t listen to any lawyers or witnesses and doesn’t even call the defendants, you are before a group of thugs and not the judiciary,” a family member of a defendant told Reuters.

“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,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International, said Monday.

The newspaper quoted critics of the Egyptian government as saying: “Egypt’s courts are quick to punish Mohammed Morsi’s supporters but ignore gross human rights violations by the security forces. While thousands of Morshi’s supporters languish, 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,” Sahraoui said. “In any event, recourse to the death penalty is inherently unjust, and the Egyptian authorities should impose a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing it.”   

These mass death sentences handed to over 500 citizens of Egypt by this Cairo-based court have grossly breached all sensible and well-grounded international humanitarian laws.

Specifically, in part three, Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the defendants must not be denied the right to fair conduct of the trial process including the right to be heard and represented by legal counsels of their choosing.

“All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law,” so says Article 26 of the International Centenary on Civil and Political Rights.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is another aspect of the body of international humanitarian laws that the Egyptian mass death sentences violated with shameless impunity, making it all the more imperative that the security council of the United Nations must act decisively to save Egypt from the unmitigated desecration of human lives that may occur should these sentences be carried out.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” That is Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But in reaching this predictable and rash decision, the Egyptian court has treated these 500 Muslim Brotherhood members as persons without fundamental rights.

Also, Article Eleven of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides clearly that; “Every one charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.”

From the barrage of news coverage emanating from the trial, it is clearly that none of these parameters of justice, equity and fairness was extended to these 500 persons who were simply moved into a crowded court room caged like mere irrational inanimate objects and sentenced to death without allowing them to put up any form of defence.

Now that this injustice has happened, world leaders must not only speak out in total rejection of this perfidy, but the security council must take concrete measures to ensure that the government in Egypt is not allowed to send these 500 persons to their untimely deaths.

RIGHTSVIEW appears twice a week on Wednesday and Saturdays. The Columnist, popular activist Emmanuel Onwubiko, is a former Federal Commissioner of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission and presently National Coordinator of Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HURIWA).

Source: News Express

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