Sunday,17 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013
Sunday,17 December, 2017
Issue 1140, 21 - 27 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Rough justice

In the absence of security, some people have started to take the law into their own hands, reports Ahmed Morsy
 

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Al-Ahram Weekly

On Sunday, residents of a small village in Gharbiya governorate, about 90 kilometres to the north of Cairo, beat to death two thugs accused of kidnapping a girl inside a stolen three-wheeled rickshaw. As punishment, the kidnappers were hung by their feet from the rafters of an open-air bus station. It was reported that the incident began when the two men were dragged on the street after being caught stealing a motorised rickshaw.
Gruesome photos that were taken by eyewitnesses and recorded on cell phone cameras quickly circulated on Facebook and other social media outlets showing the two being hung upside down with bruises, cuts and bleeding appearing on their bodies.
The incident represents a case of vigilantism that could herald the end of the state of law.
“Egypt is approaching a very serious point, which we call in politics the ‘no rule’ or in other words the incapability of managing public affairs,” activist Amr Hamzawy said in a TV show on Monday. We are witnessing, he says, a retreat in state institutions and a decline of its capabilities that would gradually cause their breakdown.
“One aspect of this retreat is breaking the law,” Hamzawy added.
“Although they are deemed to be outlaws, punishing them is not my job as a citizen so vigilantism is also law-breaking,” Hamzawy said, adding that during the no rule phase, lawlessness becomes normal and violence increases.
On Monday, only one day after Gharbiya incident, hundreds of residents of Ziad village in the same governorate surrounded a police station in an attempt to capture and publicly execute a man charged with kidnapping a local girl. Consequently, Central Security Forces were deployed to prevent angry crowds from reaching the accused who was being held at the police station following his arrest.
The recent incidents came one week after the Egyptian attorney-general’s office granted citizens the right to arrest those who break the law and hand them over to the authorities.
Mohamed Al-Baradei, chairman of the opposition party Dostour, blamed the Brotherhood’s leadership for allegedly encouraging militias loyal to the group to join the fight. Al-Baradei lamented increasing lawlessness in Egypt, which he blamed on the regime of President Mohamed Morsi.
“Public displays of vigilante lynching and killing: are we losing our humanity in a lawless society?!” Al-Baradei tweeted on Monday, adding, “in absence of adequate state security, people are killing and lynching suspected offenders. Law and order is our immediate priority.
“Enough is enough: the regime which is unable to ensure security has to go.”
Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki condemned the incident, describing it as a sign of “the death of the state”.
“Applying rough justice to thugs and outlaws, as well as blocking roads and highways by citizens, are signs of the state’s death,” Mekki said in statements to the Turkish Anadol News Agency on Sunday.
“The government that allows this to happen is an unjust government, because it does not afford citizens adequate protection,” said Mekki.
There have been similar attacks over the past two years; however, vigilante killings are not domestically common. Also in Sharqiya province, the Interior Ministry reported in 2012 that relatives of a man killed by muggers who tried to steal his car lynched one of the thieves. Another case in the same year was in Mansoura where relatives of a victim took the law into their own hands and lynched two suspected killers.
“Such chaos is the result of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt,” Nasser Amin, activist and lawyer, told Al-Ahram Weekly.
“The regime and its institutions is part of the chaos that prevailed in the country in addition to the attorney-general, who encourages citizens to such doings,” Amin, the head of the Centre for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, added. As for strengthening security, Amin believes that President Morsi has to publicly declare the state’s refusal to such acts.
“Morsi ought to speak out on the state’s intention to hold those responsible for vigilantism accountable. Moreover, he should emphasise the importance of respecting the law and that he was elected to establish the state of law,” Amin added.

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