Al-Ahram Weekly Online   21 - 27 April 2011
Issue No. 1044
Opinion
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Soapbox:

Crimes of the ex-president

By Abdallah El-Ashaal

When a judge is deciding on the guilt of the defendant, he customarily depends on national legislation. But this is not always the case. Courts have recourse to any international agreement to which the country is signatory and thus is entitled to use as a basis for penalising a defendant.

The above clarification is now necessary, for I heard a member of the Higher Council of the Armed Forces say that some of Mubarak's crimes are not punishable by local laws. This cannot be true, because Article 151 of the constitution states that international agreements have the power of local laws.

The article doesn't state that international law supersedes local law, but it is a common practice that it does. For example, a country cannot issue a local law that scraps a treaty in a unilateral fashion. Nor can a country cite its internal laws as an excuse for putting on hold international obligations.

The above means that the courts trying ex-President Mubarak can resort to international laws whenever local laws are inadequate. Egypt is signatory to many treaties with direct bearing on Mubarak's case, including conventions on human rights, genocide, corruption, organised crime, and money laundering.

Take, for example, the UN Convention against Corruption, which covers political, administrative, and financial corruption for public officials. In Egypt, the kind of power the president has makes him responsible not only for his own corruption, but for that of all of his subordinates.

The ex-president must, in my opinion, face four groups of crimes. The first group is related to murder, either through shooting, torture, or spreading of disease. The second is related to financial irregularities, including abuse of funds, embezzlement, and bribery. The third involves administrative and political corruption, including the fixing of elections, the repression of the opposition, and the manipulation of police and judges. The fourth group is that of high treason, when the president ignores the higher interests of the state and undermines the country's sovereignty.

This week's Soapbox speaker is former assisstant to the Egyptian foreign minister.

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