The dead cannot cry out for justice

Alas, a verdict has been reached in the infamous trial of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak. The judge dismissed the charges against Mubarak in the final court hearing held on November 29. Former President Mubarak and all his former senior security officers were exonerated from any criminal liability for their actions during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

The judge explained in 280 pages his rationale for dismissing the charges: for Mubarak the dismissal was due to procedural and legal technicalities, whereas his senior security officers were acquitted for lack of evidence of premeditated intent to murder the protestors during the uprisings.

Ironic as it is, Mubarak ruled Egypt for three arduous decades but at his eleventh hour the public prosecutor, under pressure, elected to press charges on the events of the last few days of his presidency – precisely, the three days between January 25 and January 28, 2011.

Three decades of rampant corruption and power abuse were neglected and instead the focus was on the events of some 72 hours of Mubarak’s reign. So much mayhem occurred during Mubarak’s rule, and numerous complaints were filed against him during his presidency. However, the public prosecutor has consistently neglected to prosecute corruption-related cases during his reign. It was a letdown of the entire political system.

The parliament and oversight bodies essentially failed to fulfill their duties and hold the president accountable for his political crimes. Instead, after the uprising, the public prosecutor charged against Mubarak, claiming that he ordered his security apparatus to use deadly force to silence the protesters.

 The judge dismissed the case on technicalities – in Mubarak’s case – and for lack of evidence in the officers’ case. One can argue that Mubarak indeed may have never issued a direct order to use deadly force to disperse the protesters. But, after all, did he have to issue such a directive?

For years, the Egyptian police force have been using torture, inhumane treatment, and deadly force against ordinary Egyptian citizens on a daily basis. A quick YouTube search for “Egyptian police brutality” leads to countless pages of disturbing videos that exhibit the Egyptian police force’s viciousness against civilians; some posts and videos date pre-January 25, 2011. This video along with this might just be the tip of the iceberg.

It would be naïve to entertain the notion that Mubarak and his security apparatus were unaware of their own police force’s brutality and inhumane practices during Mubarak’s three-decade reign. he protesters chose January 25 because it is the official “National Police Force Day” to make a point about police brutality.

That vicious, sadistic culture was fully intertwined in the fabric of the security apparatus and Mubarak knew it. This meant that he didn’t need to lift a pen and sign some official document ordering the use of lethal force to crush the protesters.

Live ammunition was used during the days of the January 25 uprising, during the Mohamed Mahmoud protests, during the Cabinet clashes, and in the Maspero protests. During these events men in uniform, undercover police officers, or paid thugs used live ammunition and murdered civilians. The number of fatalities ranges between a few hundred to a few dozen deaths. It seems the propensity to use live ammunition against civilians is probable when the security apparatus is threatened, when it has much at stake, much to lose.

The police force seems to protect an empire of its own, guarding an egoistic vanity that it should remain untouchable, holy and protected at all costs. It is as if the military and the police force were a “sovereign entity,” each a state within a state.

The trial is over. However, if there is one thing that the history books ought to narrate on Mubarak’s failed reign, and the charges that should have been brought against him in his trial, it is that he should have been indicted not just for his actions, but for his inaction.

He should have acted when corruption was rampant. When the educational system was a failure and Egypt’s universities world ranking was consistently languishing. When school curriculums were infiltrated by an Islamic curriculum. When medical care became useless and hospitals became morgues. When poverty was heart-wrenching and some 40 percent of the Egyptian population were living on less than $2 a day. When rampant inflation made it harder for millions to feed their families. When Mubarak’s son promised that economic liberalization would eventually lift Egyptians out of poverty and instead became a dreaded cruel joke for citizens watching their country’s international standing and their own economic prospects decline, as the middle class gradually dwindled and inhumane urban ghettos increased. When elections were rigged. When political life was stifled and his security apparatus regularly rounded up dissidents. But worse of all, when an entire generation was left hopeless and in despair as to what their future holds, succumbing under economic pressures to human trafficking on boats across the Mediterranean for menial work in wherever the traffickers dump them on Europe’s coastline (if they ever make it across the seas.)

One could go on endlessly. Mubarak’s inactions and passiveness are an implicit, if not an explicit, corroboration for an overwhelming guilty verdict for failing to govern a state and his determination to remain at its helm in spite of his incompetence; if such a crime exists in the legal code system.

Ultimately Mubarak was found “not guilty.” Mubarak is 86 years old and eventually he will be set free, but that is inconsequential. However, when he is set free, it would only be fair to confine him in one of the many slums that sprung during his long-term rule while he contemplates on his failures and writes his best seller biography: “Memoirs of a Failed President: What not to do.” Let’s call this “divine retribution,” for lack of better term.

In one of her novels, Lois McMaster Bujold wrote, “The dead cannot cry out for justice; it is a duty of the living to do so for them.” Perhaps someday justice will be served and the dead who put their lives at stake on January 25, 2011, aspiring for change and a better tomorrow for their fellow citizens, can then rest in peace. But until then, it is the duty of the living to cry out for justice.

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