The world on Monday 24th march 2014 was shocked when an Egyptian trial court, sitting in the central city of Minya, handed down death sentences to 529 defendants: supporters of the outlawed Muslim brotherhood; in what has been described as “largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences in recent years, not just in Egypt but anywhere in the world.
Our concern is with the effect such judicial melodrama and verdicts will have on human rights in Egypt and a world struggling to be tolerant and liberal.
Now, facts and events leading to the arraignment and trial of the 529 persons are deeply connected to be botched democracy midwife by the Arab spring in Egypt. We can recall if memory and history serves us right that Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim brotherhood became the first freely elected president of Egypt after decades of military rule and misadventure. But the Morsi led government soon transformed itself into a quasi-theocracy showing tongues of flame; threatening radical reforms, biting into the constitutional rights of the Egyptian citizenry. This intoxicated moves threw Egypt into another round of protests which culminated in deadly clashes between opposing factions which ordinarily should have worked together to strengthen the heel of their new born democracy. Then the military seeking for a pretext to venture back into politics struck again-deposed Morsi and installed a puppet: to preserve their power base. Things fell apart; supporters of the Morsi-let government, drawn mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood took to the streets. The centre could no longer hold. The Military cracked down heavily on the brotherhood: killed, tortured, humiliated, arrested and jailed supporters, even leading figures – Mohammed Morsi and Mohammed Badie were not spared. However, in order to stave off foreign pressure and loss of aid the trial of the supporters was staged. And the state made them scape-goats, bearing the brunt and burden of violence that rocked the country when the military overthrew Morsi.
At this point of our discourse, we shall posit that democracy anywhere in the world thrives on free expression; respect for the peoples’ franchise and the existence of legitimate means of changing government through the peoples’ will. Right from the early days of the Arab Awakening, the Egyptian people struggled for democratic rule: a government that will respect their civil politico rights. That’s why they took to the streets and squares; for a government which doesn’t treat government as a birth right to be passed through family and generations. They wanted a society where their voices are heard; not muffled with military dispatch. That’s why they marched, sang, danced and died. Yes, the Morsi-led Muslim brotherhood after winning the election displayed some theocratic sentiments; but it didn’t warrant its outer from government through a coup d’état. We shall reiterate here that whenever a peoples legitimate will expressed through democratic proceed are suppressed and subverted through coup d’état, the field becomes fertile for the rule of might to be planted. If the Morsi-led government became dictatorial, the Egyptian people who voted him in could have also voted him out to without any senseless blood- letting. Besides, he could have been checked by the court and press. But no, the Military still wanted a piece of the political thriller they’ve enjoyed for decades and they’ve bent on it.
More so, there’s a strong convergence between democracy and the rule of law; for it is easier in a democracy for the rule of law to hold sway than in a military junta. The rule of law is the antithesis of the rule of might. The rule of law entails: supremacy of the law (constitution), equality before the law, and fair-hearing secured by an independent and impartial court. Besides, there’s a blood-tie between the rule of law and respect for human rights. Wherever the rule of law reigns, there’s bound to be respect and enjoyment of human rights. Human rights and the rule of law are of the same mother. And democracy is watered to flourish in the garden of the rule of law and human rights. Looking at the facts and circumstances leading to the trial, we can aver that there’s a breach of the rule of law and violations of the human rights of the defendants. How can a court possibly try and convict 529 persons within 2 days; dishing out death sentences? Were the defendants heard? Was the court independent of the military and impartial? What about the hundreds of souls vengefully killed by the Egyptian security forces in June 2013 during the bloody crack-down on the protesting supporters and dissents? What purpose will the verdicts serve? Perhaps, its justice to the military which wants to cow the Egyptian people into fear and permanently seal the voice of dissents in the country. We therefore declaim the trial as kangaroo proceedings stage-sponsored by the military to quench the fighting spirits of the Egyptians. People may be hanged if the judgment is not quashed on appeal; but the will of the people for a truly democratic society will triumph at the end.
– Elvis-Wura Towolawi