by Toby M. Cadman
The International Criminal Court in The Hague was established in order to provide a system of justice that represents universally accepted principles of due process. It was set up to deal with crises like Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and now Egypt - all of those that remain politically out of the reach of the court.
The international community is no stranger to controversy when it comes to providing support to regimes within which they have placed great hope and offered support but have turned out to be no different than the previous oppressive regime which they have overthrown, and in some circumstances, much worse than the previous regime.
Arguably, this is the position that the West now finds itselff as regards the military regime in Egypt. The protesters in Tahrir Square received moral support when they initially rose up against the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Those initial elections were widely applauded across the world, it is strange then that when the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Morsi, democratically elected, was deposed by way of an armed coup d’état, that there was not stronger condemnation of the actions of the Egyptian army and its head, Field Marshall Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi.
Stories were widely published about the army’s use of force during the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and the political arm of the movement, the Freedom and Justice Party; journalists gave clear reports of civilians being murdered by the army, and yet the international community did nothing.
Having seized power unlawfully, Sisi then won the ensuing election amidst widespread oppressive tactics against any opposition, resulting in an election that simply isn’t credible, had no lawful basis for taking place, and made a mockery of the democratic process.
Yet there was still little or no condemnation from the international community just offers of further support. It is of paramount importance therefore that this position now changes in the wake of two leading members of Human Rights Watch being prevented from entering Egypt to discuss their most recent report, and further, the publication of the report itself.
The report provides clear evidence that the deaths of those demonstrators at Rab’a were planned, it was therefore murder, and likely to be deemed a crime against humanity.
Can it really be said therefore that Sisi is guiding stability to the country when any notion of stability is being built on the premise of fear, oppression, and punishment of dissent. By any interpretation, that cannot be said to be a democratic process; it is a reversion back to the days of Mubarak, and perhaps more extreme than Mubarak given that even under that regime, HRW were never prevented from the entering the country.
The question therefore emerges, what is now to be done? The foreign policy of a number of countries appears to have lost its way, there is no clearly defined purpose and there is a risk, that the safety and rights of citizens are being ignored at the expense of the national interests of another nation.
The US for example has released $500 million worth of military aid to the El-Sisi regime. How can this be justified when there is clear evidence that the army has been used to suppress and murder the very people that it is bound to protect? Why is the US continuing to stand by and support this authoritarian regime? One argument is that it serves their national interests given Egypt’s position in the Middle East and the apparent need for closer ties with Saudi Arabia. This cannot justify the turning of a blind eye to the daily plethora of human rights abuses that we see however.
Sisi has been previously commended by both the EU and the UK, it is hoped that this position will now change following the publication of the HRW report into what can only be termed as a massacre. However, it is unlikely that we will see any wholesale change in attitude. Again, this is down to UK foreign policy also losing its way. There is neither a clear objective, nor goal apparent and given the absence of this, other countries appear free to act with impunity.
It is particularly disturbing that the Egyptian military regime has been called upon to host peace talks in the latest Gaza incursion. Obviously, buoyed by this elevated stature, the El-Sisi regime demonstrated the height of irony in calling on the US to exercise restraint in its dealing with demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.
A clear change in direction is needed by all countries in the EU and indeed the US. If we are to hold ourselves out as the bastion of democracy and a talisman of human rights, we cannot afford to sit by idly and give support to those countries that at the very most pay lip service to such principles. To continue to provide support and to continue to refuse to condemn undermines our own position on the global stage and undermines our influence.
If we are serious about upholding human rights and seeking to support democratic principles internationally then we must take a stand. We must show those countries that we expect them to fulfil their promises, and actions such as those at Rab’a will be punished.
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