The landmark conviction of the former EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak on June 2, 2012, on charges of complicity in the murder of peaceful protesters during pro-democracy protests sends a powerful message to Egypt’s future leaders that they are not above the law, Human Rights Watch said today. However, the acquittal of four assistant ministers of interior on the grounds of insufficient evidence highlights the failure of the prosecution to fully investigate responsibility for the shooting of protesters in January 2011, giving a green light to future police abuse, Human Rights Watch said.
The North Cairo Criminal Court, with Judge Ahmed Refaat presiding, sentenced Mubarakand his minister of interior, Habib al-Adly,to life imprisonment on the grounds that they knew about and failed to prevent the violence against protesters, after a trial that Human Rights Watch observers considered overall to be in accordance with international fair trial principles.
“These convictions set an important precedent since just over a year ago seeing Hosni Mubarak as a defendant in a criminal court would have been unthinkable,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “ But the acquittal of senior ministry of interior officialsfor the deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters leaves police impunity intact andthe victims still waiting for justice.”
Those acquitted include Ahmed Ramzy, the former head of the Central Security Forces, Egypt’s riot police, and Ismail al-Shaer, former head of Cairo security, who by virtue of their position at least, at a minimum must have known about the illegal use of deadly force against protesters by police forces under their control. The court did not appear to apply the same due diligence standard it applied to Mubarak and Adly, Human Rights Watch said.
This is the first trial of a former Arab head of state in which the defendant has personally appeared since waves of street protests hit the Arab world in December 2010. On May 24, 2011, the public prosecutorformally charged Mubarak with complicity in the murder and attempted murder of protesters, complicity in improperly facilitating a concession to provide natural gas sales to Israel, and accepting a bribe in return for illicit grants of state-owned land. The prosecutor also referred Mubarak’s sons,Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, and allegedbusiness associate Hussein Salem to trial on charges relating to the bribe and illicit grants of state-owned land.
Mubarak first appeared in court on August 3, 2011. On August 15, Judge Refaat consolidated the trial with that of former interior minister Habib al-Adly, fourhigh-ranking Interior Ministry officials, and two other heads of security for governorates adjacent to Cairo who had been indicted in connection with the protests. The trial phase in Mubarak’s case was officially closed on February 22, 2012.
Mubarak and Adly wereconvicted on the charge of complicity in the murder of peaceful protesters. The court acquitted Hosni, Alaa and Gamal Mubarak, as well as Hussein Salem of all the corruption charges.