The Egyptian justice system continues to suffer from the absence of basic due process, and we continue to see example after example of cases wherein defendants receive no protection from unfair trial proceedings. First, a look at the cases, and then, why it matters to INTERPOL:
Last month, Human Rights Watch issued a report condemning the judicial proceedings in Egypt wherein the court sentenced multiple defendants to death after their trial:
The March 22, 2014, trial, in which the vast majority of defendants were tried in absentia, took place in under an hour. The prosecution did not put forward evidence implicating any individual defendant, even though it had compiled significant evidence during its investigations, and the court prevented defense lawyers from presenting their case or calling witnesses, three of the defense lawyers told Human Rights Watch. A second summary session was held two days later solely to announce the verdict…
It’s shocking even amid Egypt’s deep political repression that a court has sentenced 529 people to death without giving them any meaningful opportunity to defend themselves,”
– Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.
This month, David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reports that three journalists currently on trial (for conspiring to broadcast false reports about civil strife in Egypt) were witnesses to the prosecutors’ absolute lack of evidence in their cases. The article, here, describes how prosecutors presented the court with video, previously represented as the basis for the charges, when in fact the video showed “family photographs, trotting horses and Somali refugees in Kenya.”
In another article describing the trial, Dan Bloom and David Williams write for the Daily Mail that the judge dismissed the evidence as being irrelevant, but still refused to grant bond to the defendants. The five defendants who were present for trial appeared in cages and openly argued along with their attorneys against the seemingly ridiculous evidence that was presented against them.
Amnesty International criticized the trial as “vindictive persecution of journalists for merely doing their jobs.”
It’s difficult to imagine more compelling grounds for dismissing Egypt’s current judiciary as completely out of compliance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as its own domestic laws. As an INTERPOL member country, Egypt is bound to comply with both of those standards, as well as with INTERPOL’s governing rules.
In the face of such abuse of due process and basic standards of fairness, INTERPOL is bound to divorce itself from any of Egypt’s requests for assistance in apprehending fugitives until the country presents clear and consistent evidence that it is materially reforming its justice system. Otherwise, INTERPOL risks losing any credibility as a protector of individual rights, and also renders meaningless its previous assurances that it requires member countries to comply with both domestic and applicable international law.
As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.