Is there anything in common between the recent acquittal of Mamdouh Ismail, owner of the ill-fated Al-Salam 98 ferry which sank in February 2006, claiming the lives of 1,034 people; the accusation leveled against Sudanese President Omar Al-Beshir by the International Criminal Court, which is calling for his arrest on charges of crimes against humanity; and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who is currently facing trial before the same court?
There certainly is a clear and strong relationship between the three episodes. First, all three men are involved in genocide, directly or indirectly, which resulted in the death of thousands of people and second, they are all trying to flee from justice and not pay for their crimes.
Despite the differences in the context and circumstances of each case, they all represent crude violations against humanity and justice, hence their international appeal – the right to life is, indeed, the most basic of all human rights.
These cases reveal a strong relationship between autocracy and injustice. Those involved in genocide grew up under authoritarian regimes that neither gave weight to the sanctity of human life nor knew the meaning of justice.
When each of them committed his crimes, none of them expected to be held accountable or imagined he would stand trial or be liable for what he did and face the consequences.
Ironically, at a time when Western citizens are seeking to refine and improve their quality of life, Arab citizens (especially Egyptians) are simply looking for the “right to life.
There are three main functions without which any political regime is illegitimate and has no right to continue in its hold on power: first, the protection of citizens’ physical right to exist, a right enshrined in all constitutions and human rights charters; second, the establishment of all forms of social, political and legal equality among citizens; third, the protection of national security against foreign danger.
Regardless of the Al-Beshir and Karadzic cases, with their international dimension that is not to be discussed here, Mamdouh Ismail’s case remains strong evidence of the failure of the Egyptian regime to protect all citizens or establish justice, which are the most basic rights guaranteed by the Egyptian constitution.
It seems that the lack of justice in any society is evidence of the loss of the moral compass, and a return to a primitive life where every person seeks to protect his/her own right by the use of force, regardless of law or authority which have failed to deliver their essential duties.
When corruption and favoritism reach such a level that a person known by all people to be involved in the killing of hundreds of people, then we are facing a regime which needs to be taken to task for violating the constitution and failing to protect its citizens’ right to life.
All those who were responsible for the death of Egyptians on the railway tracks should also be tried, not only because of their utter failure in performing their duties, but also because of their disregard for citizens’ minds and considering these murders to be ‘acts of fate’.
Khalil Al-Anani is an expert on political Islam and Democratization in the Middle East and is a visiting fellow at Brookings Institution. E-mail: [email protected]