Mubarak’s trial in Egypt: We have come a long way

By Mohammed Lotfy, Amnesty International  researcher for the Middle East and North Africa

Since the morning I had felt that this was going to be a historic day.

I couldn’t wait to watch live on TV the trial of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

As he denied the charges read aloud by the presiding judge, I kept thinking of activists and opponents to his rule who had been unfairly made to stand trial when he was in power.
Like so many other Egyptians, until the very last minute I doubted Mubarak would actually show up to his trial until I saw him lying on the stretcher beside his sons in the courtroom.

His co-defendants the former Minister of the Interior and his senior aides were sitting together on a bench in the same cage, as if in formation.

After watching the day’s proceedings, I thought: “We have come a long way”.  I remembered the promise of truth and accountability that I along with my colleague Diana Eltahawy had made to scores of families of victims whom we met when we were in Egypt during the uprising in January and February 2011.

The loss of their loved ones and their anguish was still fresh. Mubarak was still in power. But they, as well as we, were determined to do all we could to hold to account those responsible for the killings.

Whether it was the young son who was shot dead while taking part in a peaceful protest or the beloved mother killed by a stray bullet in her home, the families struggled to comprehend their loss. Over the past few months I’ve observed how the pain of the families transformed into an unbreakable determination to obtain justice.

Their frustration has been on the increase as they felt that the trials of police officers and investigations into the killings were too slow. Only through constant pressure did the Ministry of Interior finally suspend the police officers suspected of killings from their functions.

But the trial of senior officials such as Mubarak or the former Minister of the Interior had seemed a distant dream.

Besides the charges the former president and the other defendants face, many other human rights violations, such as torture over the past three decades, will need to be addressed. This fight may be an even more difficult.

The trial of Mubarak and his co-defendants so far only addresses the very last crimes committed in the very last days of Mubarak’s rule. This may only be the tip of the Iceberg.

The only way to provide an effective remedy to the victims and to reveal the full truth to all Egyptians about the killings in the ‘25 January Revolution’ is for this trial to be transparent and fair. This may restore people’s faith in the judicial system and demonstrate to them that it is possible to move beyond the decades of repression – so that ‘no one is above the law’ can become a fact and not remain a mere slogan.