The Conviction of Hosni Mubarak

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was recently sentenced to life in prison for complicity in the killing of unarmed demonstrators during the first six days of protests that ended his rule last February. Reuters reports, “There were celebrations in the streets when the verdict was announced, but it was short-lived, as protesters learned of the mixed verdict: While Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison, he and his two sons were acquitted of corruption charges.”

Many of those gathered in Tahrir Square shouted and waved banners calling for the execution of the former dictator. Ramadan Ahmed (whose son was killed on Jan. 28, 2011) said, “justice was not served, this is a sham.”

Human Rights Watch called the verdict a landmark, but criticized the prosecution for failing to fully investigate the case.

“It sends a powerful message to Egypt’s future leaders that they are not above the law,” Human Rights Watch spokesman Joe Stork said. “These convictions set an important precedent since just over a year ago, seeing Mubarak as a defendant in a criminal court would have been unthinkable.”

The Boston Globe reports, “With the nation still awaiting the ratification of a new constitution, the election of a new president, and the handover of power by its military rulers, the decision is Egypt’s most significant step yet toward establishing the principle that no leader is above the law.”

Though I’m not convinced that this conviction proves that “no leader (or government official) is above the law.” If the “law” meant anything then those who carried out the actions would be held responsible in court. While Mubarak is certainly liable to some extent, he was not the one to kill any protesters. The Nuremburg Principles state: “Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment.” Based on this principle, every police officer, every member of a military and every other government official should be held criminally liable for any violation of the law.

The Badger Herald reports, “police are very rarely held accountable for deaths they cause on the job… on-duty police who shoot citizens are prosecuted less than 2 percent of the time.” Not to mention the minimal percentage of military personnel who are charged with killing civilians.

While it makes people “feel good” to symbolically chop off the head, the people who commit the acts are ultimately responsible for their own actions.