A Staggering Death Sentence, Ctd

Earlier this week, Egypt sentenced 529 Muslim Brotherhood members to death. Ursula Lindsey contends that Egypt’s judiciary “has become another of the country’s rogue institutions, answerable to no one”:

In the new constitution that they helped draft, judges bestowed upon themselves almost total autonomy. They are in a retaliatory mood, not only toward the Islamists, who have accused them of corruption and have tried to force senior judges into retirement, but also toward secular activists who have criticized their rulings—some of whom have since been arraigned on charges of “insulting the judiciary.”

Nathan Brown identifies three problems facing Egypt’s judicial system. Among them:

Egypt’s legal framework, the one that judges take such pride in upholding, is deeply authoritarian ­– since all of its lawmakers have been authoritarian.

Laws governing civil society, political life, the press, states of emergency, local government, religion, education, or virtually any feature of Egyptian life have been written in a way that augments state authority and undermines or bypasses accountability to democratic mechanisms. And this has often been done in a manner sufficiently vague as to turn many citizens into potential criminals when they undertake what they might see as normal activities.

Bel Trew foresees more violence:

Even if the sentence is not carried out, the verdict has propelled Egypt back into international headlines for all the wrong reasons — and has wrecked some tentative signs of improvement in the country’s human rights environment. Prominent secular activist Alaa Abdel-Fattah, who has been in jail since December and is on trial for allegedly organizing an illegal protest and assaulting a police officer, was finally released on bail on March 23. Meanwhile, interim President Adly Mansour personally wrote letters to jailed Al Jazeera correspondents Peter Greste and Mohamed Fahmy promising them a free and speedy trial.

This ruling, however, is a sign that some elements within the Egyptian state still favor a drastic escalation of violence against Morsi supporters.

Shadi Hamid calls for the US to deny aid to Egypt:

On March 12, Secretary of State John Kerry said he hoped to resume a significant amount of military aid to Egypt “in the days ahead.” This, however, requires the State Department to certify that Egypt is making progress on democracy. For his part, Kerry has made clear, time and time again, that he sees his own administration’s partial aid cut, announced in October, as little more than a nuisance. In November, he assured his Egyptian counterparts that the “aid issue is a very small issue.” He also said that Egypt’s “roadmap” was moving “in the direction that everybody was hoping for,” a statement that seems the all the more remarkable with every passing day. …

Certifying one of the region’s most repressive regimes as moving toward democracy would be both embarrassing and transparently cynical. It would also set a precedent that even non-waiver legislation on democratization can be circumvented, assuming there’s sufficient political will to do so.