Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Morsi's Confessions

I could only think of Captain Louis Renault, of the French Vichy controlled Morocco, saying "Round up the usual suspects" as to what, could have possibly, inspired President Morsi ideas of what "the rule of law" as a concept, stood for. Usually, I find myself a consumer of news and analysis during eventful periods, holding back on much writing until news reports slow down. Only then, do I feel, that I can look back at events, with a level of objectivity and clarity. This has become a tall order, with Egypt revolution and post revolution phases, as events never seem to cease. Egypt, where nothing much happened for decades, has gone to the extreme in news generation and endless ensuing commentaries, professional and voluntary journalism alike, the ultimate happening place!

A fascinating aspect of the post Jan25, or the January 25, 2011 Egyptian Revolution, is that, the huge amount of news reports, live news feeds often render radically differing versions of reality. A particular event that occurred on December 5, 2012, commonly referred to as the "Events of Ittahadiya Palace"' where massive clashes between pro and anti President Morsi protesters erupted leaving some 8 people dead and hundreds injured. What is clear is that peaceful anti Morsi protesters were violently attacked by Muslim Brothers, destroying their tents and other belongings. Few have argued that the events started with violence from Muslim Brotherhood supporters against the peaceful encamped protesters. What transpired afterwords, with scenes of urban civil war including use of tear gas, Molotov cocktails and live ammunition is subject to two radically different accounts; how many people were shot dead? Whose side they belonged to? Which side was armed with guns? These questions have conflicting answers. There also appear to be little doubt that the Brotherhood supporters operated some sort of detention center with clear evidence of torture, of their prisoners. I have not seen reports of a similar detention or torture by the anti Morsi protesters. So much has been written on the events of Ittahadiya Palace and staggering amounts of evidence has been assembled

Perhaps, for me, most shocking and troubling were the words of President Morsi commenting on Ittahadiya Palace events. The president stated that "hired thugs" were part of the protests, some "80 people have been arrested" and "we have their confessions". President Morsi was speaking of events that occurred merely 24 hours earlier, when he referenced incriminating confessions and conspiracies.

The word "confession" or admission of one's guilt is remarkable coming from a man, who himself, has been on the receiving end of injustice and suppression of freedom of thought and association.  There is little doubt that President Morsi came across numerous stories of the use of coerced confessions as a tool of the totalitarian police state, which Egypt actually revolted against. The fact that he referred to incriminating confessions, of people arrested only few hours earlier, to say the least, was outrageous. 

Totalitarian regimes are highly effective in extracting confessions. They rarely have unsolved crimes, or long running investigations, a criminal is easily found, a confession is forthcoming and thus, the machinery of injustice operate speedily and efficiently. In the case of President Morsi's alleged confessions, the machine did not cooperate. Indeed all 49 people arrested by the Egyptian Police, were in actual fact victims of the Muslim Brotherhood torture, who were released by the prosecutors within two days following President Morsi's remarks.  

Confessions have a relatively weak standing in most democracies and indeed, in some countries, are hardly admitted as evidence except in narrowly defined circumstances. President Morsi's words were, in fact, an indictment, not only to the president himself, but also to his capacity to reform Egypt justice and police systems, one of the clear undertakings of his campaign and post election speeches. Regardless of what President Morsi was told and what information he may not have had access to, how could Egypt first elected post revolution president utter such words. Morsi's words, even if if prosecutors would have cooperated in indicting the victims, betray a total ignorance of the rule of law and the most basic understanding of justice be it civil or Islamic. 

Sadly, the Muslim Brothers and their Freedom and Justice Party played up the Captain Renault understanding of the "rule of law", in practically every single statement or position they have taken, since the Ittahadiya Palace events and upped President Morsi's comments. The Brotherhood never repudiated the original act of destruction of the tents of the anti Morsi protesters, never admitted to the illegal torture and detention by their supporters of the opposition and never accepted the culpability of the Islamists in the death of opposition protesters.

Jan25 revolution, was specifically held on Egypt's Police Day. The 25th of January was chosen Egypt's Police Day in honor of the bravery of an Egyptian police station battling a unit of the the British Army during the struggle for independence. A trigger for Jan25 was the brutal torture and death of a young activist, Khaled Said, at the hands of Egypt's police. The police fabricated drug charges against Khaled Said, with the complicity of the prosecutor and the coroner. Later reexamination of the case proved the guilt and complicity of Egypt's Ministry of Interior. So for President Morsi and the Muslim Brothers to fail to address reform of the police is serious enough, but to engage in the language of "hired thugs" and talk of confessions of conspiracy is simply treacherous to the basic principles of Jan25.  

The following extracts of statement published by  Human Rights Watch and by UNHCR summarizes what many, the world over, are waiting on President Morsi to explain his "confessions":

"A speech by Morsy on December 6 in which he referred to “confessions” of detained protesters as evidence that they were “hired thugs” raises concerns for their due process rights and suggests that the authorities were aware of the illegal detentions outside the presidential palace. The secretary of the president on foreign affairs, Eng. Khaled Al Qazzaz, told Human Rights Watch that the president was not aware of the detention of the 49 individuals at the time and that this was currently being investigated along with reported deaths and injuries.

“Instead of condemning illegal detentions and abuse right outside the presidential palace, President Morsy spoke out against the victims,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The prosecutor’s response in this high-profile case, namely his willingness to investigate violence by both sides and the role of state officials, is crucial for upholding the rule of law during this tense time."

December 25, 2012

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