The ongoing transitional justice process in Egypt is reigniting a crucial debate among advocates regarding the role the ICC can play in delivering justice and redress to victims of grave crimes. The election of Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi as president early last month presents an important opportunity for reforms and possibly ratification of the ICC Rome Statute.
Monitoring by international entities can be a catalyst for the reform of national justice systems, and the ICC could play that role in Egypt.
Ahmed Amr, president of the International Centre for Supporting Rights and Freedoms:
“Egypt urgently needs to ratify the Rome Statute; ratification will prevent future crimes against humanity such as occurred under the previous regime, and will greatly contribute to ending impunity for security authorities by guaranteeing a fair and independent judicial process.”
Arab Spring fuels push for legal reforms
Although the transitional period between the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi and Al-Sisi’s election was associated with grave violations of human rights and controversial judiciary rulings, the international community is looking to the new president to capitalize on his popularity and work towards establishing the rule of law in Egypt.
Members of Egyptian civil society have noted that there is now a conflict between Egypt’s outdated laws and the new expectations for justice created by the Arab Spring. With El-Sisi’s election, the timing is now opportune to break with those unsatisfactory laws and pass legislation protecting Egyptians from human rights violations—including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide—and establish equality before the law.
Two important legal reforms that Al-Sisi could enact are the banning of the death penalty and the practice of prosecuting civilians in military courts—two tools that the state has used to repress members of the opposition.
Although the committee tasked with drafting a new Egyptian constitution was comprised mostly of liberals and supporters of human rights, it failed to secure these two reforms.
Could election renew momentum towards ICC membership?
Al-Sisi’s election could also be used as a catalyst to ratify the Rome Statute, a step civil society has hoped Egypt would take in the wake of its revolution.
Following the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian government had indicated that it would move to join the ICC, but no significant action was taken before Morsi’s ouster disrupted the political scene and dampened the momentum behind the drive to ratify the Rome Statute.
With Al-Sisi’s election, civil society hopes to recreate some of that momentum.
Joining the ICC and aligning Egypt’s domestic laws with the Rome Statute could help Egyptian society move towards reconciliation while ensuring that any future leaders who are responsible for atrocities and human rights violations are held accountable.
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