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When Judges Are Beaten
When Judges Are Beaten
Democracy in Egypt must grow from the streets, not be imposed by western self-interest
In Egypt we don’t have any confidence in US policy because it is a contradictory policy that pays lip service to democracy while supporting dictatorships. We have confidence in the Egyptian people
Thursday, May 11,2006 15:33
by Mahmud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi Guardian

In Egypt we don"t have any confidence in US policy because it is a contradictory policy that pays lip service to democracy while supporting dictatorships. We have confidence in the Egyptian people. We welcome support from any quarter, but we won"t rely on it. We will depend on ourselves in our campaign for reform and change.



Democracy in Egypt must grow from the streets, not be imposed by western self-interest

For more than 20 years, members of the Egyptian judiciary have been fighting for independence from the state. The political and economic reforms needed to achieve democracy and to restore public faith in government can be achieved only under an independent judiciary. So we are shocked to find ourselves before a disciplinary court, made up of government appointees, on charges of insulting the judiciary. The decision of the court, which is expected tomorrow, is likely to be instant dismissal.

Last year, we were part of a working party that monitored parliamentary elections. This was set up by the general assembly of the Judges" Club, the elected body representing Egypt"s judiciary. We identified violations in a large number of electoral constituencies. We demanded the opening of an investigation into election fraud, intimidation and assaults on judges who were supervising the elections. Unfortunately a large number of those assaults were carried out by the very policemen who were charged with protecting us.

When the justice minister issued a decision to bring us before the disciplinary court, the Judges" Club called a protest sit-in. A large number of judges and other citizens turned up to show support for the judges" demands. After midnight, shortly after the sit-in began, our supporters were attacked by the police, yet they returned the following day in a show of defiance. Once again there was a savage attack by several thousand police officers. They surrounded the people protesting outside the club, beat them and carried them off in goods vans. One of the judges, Mahmud Hamza, was standing at the door of the club, recording what was happening on his mobile phone. An officer dragged him into the street and beat him up, causing numerous injuries.

There have been almost 50 arrests on the charge of "supporting the judges", even though this is not a crime in Egyptian law. These arrests took place under emergency laws despite the government"s insistence that it would only use them in cases of drug-dealing or terrorism. These young men and women have not committed any crime other than supporting our campaign for an independent judiciary. And support for us is growing because people know that we are not doing this for political purposes. We are simply independent judges.

One of the aims of the revolution of 23 July 1952 was to bring about democracy, but a dictatorship was set up. The mechanism for political reform will be the ballot box, but without independent judges there will be no fair elections. Likewise, economic reform means fighting corruption, impossible without an independent judiciary that can punish the guilty. So the people agree with the judges that the first step in the reform process must be judicial reform. This is why the people back the judges" campaign.

There is no doubt that educated Egyptians, among them judges, have great respect for western ideas. The functioning of democracy in western society is a model that every Egyptian hopes to see one day in our country. But there is also no doubt that the crisis in Iraq has had a negative effect. In particular, interference in Iraq"s internal affairs has created the impression that western intervention to impose "democracy" is not about principle but about self-interest.

In Egypt we don"t have any confidence in US policy because it is a contradictory policy that pays lip service to democracy while supporting dictatorships. We have confidence in the Egyptian people. We welcome support from any quarter, but we won"t rely on it. We will depend on ourselves in our campaign for reform and change.

· Mahmud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi are vice-presidents of the Egyptian court of cassation.

tags: Judge / Khodeiri / Egypt / Political reform / Legitimacy / Elections / Mahmud Mekki / Hisham Bastawisi / Mekki / Bastawisi / Gamal Mubarak
Posted in Reform Issues , Judges Activites  
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