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Egypt awaits the International Criminal Court's response

Egypt's democratically elected government has submitted a formal complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the military's alleged crimes against humanity although the country is not a signatory to the statute of the Court.  Helmy Al-Asmar explains how lawyers have attempted to overcome this legal obstacle.


THE international legal team appointed by the Freedom and Justice Party announced in London on 6 January that representatives of the 'legitimate Egyptian government' have launched an international case against the current Egyptian authorities and in support of the ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The legal team has now filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing the coup leaders of crimes against humanity, overthrowing a democratically elected president, and rounding up thousands of Egyptians.

The ICC was established in 2002 as the first court capable of prosecuting individuals accused of crimes against humanity. By May 2013, 122 states had signed the statute of the court. Since only signatories can file complaints, Egypt is excluded as it has not yet signed the statute.

Authorisation

However, the legal team is arguing that the court can still investigate the case of Egypt, in accordance with Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute. Legal experts say that, as per the statute, non-signatory states can still delegate the court to investigate war crimes perpetrated on their territories, which would apply to Egypt. Accordingly, the 'legitimate government' of President Morsi authorised the legal team to file the case.

The ICC has not responded yet. According to the London-based Arabi 21 newspaper, a historical precedent was set after the court accepted a similar case in 2011, when the internationally recognised winner of presidential elections in the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, authorised the court to investigate war crimes committed in his country between 2010 and 2011, after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo tried to use government institutions to declare himself the electoral winner. As a result, the ICC arrested Gbagbo, and continues investigating the accusations of his complicity in war crimes that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Ivorian citizens.

This track, if pursued by the ICC, will disrupt the Egyptian political scene dominated by the coup leaders. If the court accepts the complaint, it will change everything in Egypt and abroad, and a new phase will start, thus correcting the disastrous path of the largest Arab country back towards democracy. However, if the court turns down the complaint, Egypt will likely slide into the Algerian scenario. And if that were to happen, we will yearn for the return of Morsi's one year in power.                           

The above, which is a translation of an article which appeared in Arabic on the Addustour website (www.addustour.com), is reproduced from the Middle East Monitor website (www.middleeastmonitor.com).

Blair's support for coup 'misinformed and harmful'

The following is the text of an open letter by Dr Maha Azzam, Chair of Egyptians for Democracy UK, criticising recent comments by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair backing the current Egyptian government.

MR Blair's recent comments in support of the military coup in Egypt are both misinformed and harmful. They will be interpreted by the military-backed regime as an endorsement of its repressive policies. He seems to airbrush the fact that since the ousting of the first ever democratically-elected President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, last July, Egypt's military-backed government has pursued a policy of extreme brutal repression of all opposition, as highlighted by Amnesty International's report 'Road Map to Repression'.

We wish to remind Mr Blair that since the coup, over 4,000 unarmed civilians have been murdered by the security forces and thousands, including several hundred children, have been arrested with no due process, simply for participating in peaceful demonstrations. Under this regime, dissenters, whether Left or Right, have genuine fears of arrest and torture and Egypt is now acknowledged to be the most dangerous country for journalists to work in. Doctors are arrested merely for honouring their Hippocratic oath and treating injured protesters, and many academics are imprisoned or have fled abroad.

The situation is such that an international team of lawyers has publicly stated that there is prima facie evidence to submit a case to the ICC accusing senior members of the regime of crimes against humanity.

After six decades of military dictatorship, Egyptians gained the right to vote for their leaders after 25 January 2011. They did so in a series of five polls and elections, recognised by international observers as free and fair. The coup of 3 July [2013], which Mr Blair seems to endorse, annulled these votes by force.

As Egyptians, we have striven over six decades to establish a democratic government, to replace a military regime with a civil state and to build a society with an economic system that incorporates social justice. One would have thought that these were values that still matter to a former leader of the Labour Party. u

The above is reproduced from the Middle East Monitor website (www.middleeastmonitor.com).

*Third World Resurgence No. 281/282, January/February 2014, pp 54-55


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