January 6th, 2012
09:49 AM ET

Abrams: Don't kill Mubarak

Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.

By Elliott AbramsCFR.org

Among the many problems Egypt faces today, what to do about former president Hosni Mubarak may not seem high on the list. Writing a new constitution, electing a president, protecting non-Muslim groups like the Copts, and salvaging the economy might seem far more consequential. But I doubt they are.

Prosecutors are demanding the death sentence for Mubarak, Reuters reports:

Egyptian prosecutors have demanded the death sentence for former president Hosni Mubarak and other defendants including his two sons and the former interior minister for their role in the killing of protesters in the uprising that swept him from power.

What is the argument for the death penalty? Reuters continues:

Many Egyptians hope the trial will heal some of the scars of Mubarak’s autocratic rule and help the country find stability after nearly a year of political turmoil under the military generals who replaced him in power.

But executing Mubarak will not heal any scars —still less would executing his family; it will create new ones and leave Egypt farther from stability.It would be an act of vengeance, not of justice, but even if some Egyptians think it just (because there were certainly myriad human rights abuses during Mubarak’s reign of thirty years, including killings) it would leave Egypt far worse off. It would have the “new” Egypt begin its political life with vengeance, with one of the first important official acts of the new regime being executions.

Egyptians used to tell me that Iraq was a barbarous place compared to their land. Look, they would explain, when Iraq overthrew King Faisal in 1958 they killed him and his son (and other family members) in a machine gun fusillade. When we overthrew King Farouk in 1952 he sailed off to Monaco. True enough. It would be a significant event for Egyptian political culture were Egyptians now to supplant past decency by executing their own recent “royal family.” Mubarak is 83 and sick, and he is no threat to the new powers that will be. Nor are his sons. One may argue over whether they should be imprisoned, or for how long, but Egyptians should think twice and then twice more before they commence their new “democracy” in blood.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Elliott Abrams.

Topics: Egypt • Law

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Nabil

    Nice try Mr. Abrams, but your friend Mr.Mubarak will face justice. If he is executed for his crimes remain to be seen, but he will be punished for the rest of his life one way or another. Unlike what you said, this is in fact the most important issue Egyptians face right now. Not the economy or anything else.

    January 6, 2012 at 10:18 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      You're right Nabil, Mubarak must have been a friend of Elliot Abrahms.
      Well, Abrahms must be naive, if he believes that Mubarak will be executed or even convicted. The prosecution has complained of a lack of co-operation from the interior ministry in producing evidence.

      January 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  2. Diana Hughes

    I agree with every word you say, Mr Abrams. You are 100% correct. Mr Mubarak is no threat to anyone and has been humiliated and degraded enough. If he is sentenced to any term of imprisonment or acquitted, he should then leave Egypt and live quietly elsewhere, in retirement and then let Egypt get on with bringing into being the great new democracy the revolution was supposed to achieve. Mr Mubarak has suffered enough and seeking revenge on him will do nothing for the "transformation to democracy" of Egypt.

    January 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Has he really suffered enough, Diana? Have you any notion as to how the Egyptian people suffered under his rule? I think not. What needs to be done here is to put this man behind bars, once and for all!!!

      January 6, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
      • Henke

        Well said, Patton! :) Despotlovers like Hughes aways are gonna complain when anybody wants their idols to be punished for their crimes. Like I said before. His "sickness" is just an act. He was fine before he stepped down but sudden he was extremley ill. But fools like Hughes falls for that.

        January 9, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  3. George Patton

    For one time me and Abrams agree on something. As I don't like killing I think that Hosni Mubarak, as horrific a man that he is, needs to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

    January 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
  4. SnarkyOne1

    I can see putting him behind bars. But, God would not agree to us taking matters in our own hands. In none of the religious books does it say to seek and exact revenge. I know the Egyptian people suffered...and many died. I still have to wonder if it was his self-serving wife who may have had a hand in the execution of the innocent demonstrators. I think what Diana is trying to say is that Mubarak is "getting his" now. He has lost a great part of his wealth, his family has absolutely no power or authority, I would imagine...now friends, and he is sick and bed-ridden. I think he is receiving part of his punishment while he is still alive. Killing an 83-yr old man who is sick and bed-ridden would be an animal act, regardless. Put him in prison instead.......

    January 6, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Reply
    • Diana Hughes

      Thanks Snarkyone1. You wrote well. The only thing I would not agree with you is that MrMubarak should be put in prison. He has been humiliated enough and anyway because of his health problems, he would just be remaining in hospital and I do not think that would achieve anything. Let him leave Egypt and go into obscurity. He has been punished enough.

      January 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Reply
      • Henke

        Unlike you, I hate tyrants. And by the way. He was perfectly fine before he stepped down. Right after that he suddenly become ill. It takes no inteligence to understand he fakes it so gullible people like you and Adrams would start crying and feel sorry for him and pleding that he should get away with what he did, so he could satisfy his lust for peower at any costs. He should get a strong judgement from the court so other tyrants thinks before they supress their people

        January 9, 2012 at 7:12 am |
  5. ;;;;;;MUSLIMS ARE EVIL AND SHIIA ISLAM TAKE THE CAKE

    MUSLIMS ARE EVIL LIKE KILLING...................MUBARAK ORDER TO SHOOT THOSE THUGS WHO RA.....PE CIVILIANS AND STOLE THE STORES ....SAME AS THE EVIL MUSLIMS IN LIBYA WHO KILLED RA..........PED AND TORTURED THE LEADER THEN ASK THE PEOPLE TO TAKE PICTURES FOR HIS DEAD BODY!! THEN BARY HIM IN SECRET !? IS THIS IS ISLAM ? WHERE IS THE DIGNITY OF HUMAN BEEN YOU EVIL, SO SHAME USA ARE HELPING THOSE EVIL

    January 6, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Reply
  6. Toppolina

    Mr. Abrams and those defending Mubarak and his family have NO clue about what this disgusting family still do in Egypt and the millions they are spending to kill and wreak havoc in the country, so please spare the Egyptians your useless biased opinion. Justice must prevail and must be swift. If the Mubaraks are not punished Egypt and the whole Middle East will have more of the Mubarak, Assad, Gadhaffi, King Hassan II, and Saleh.

    January 7, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      Well said, Toppolina. Thank you.

      January 7, 2012 at 10:31 am | Reply
    • Diana Hughes

      So Mr Mubarak has to be punished at all costs. It does not matter that Egypt is going down the pan, the crime rate is phenomenal and the economy is stagnant. Tourism is going downhill. The muslim brotherhood is in control. Who cares about any of these things, just so long as mr mubarak is made to suffer even more than he has already. There comes a time when we must stop living in the past and all work together for the future of the country for the sake of generations to come. Mr Mubarak should be allowed to retire in peace and egypt in the future be the top priority.

      January 29, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Reply
  7. BASHAR AL KALB IS A KILLER AND HE MUST BE HANGED, NOT MUBARAK

    GOVERNMENT ALREADY KILLED 7200 SUNNI AND KURD AND PUT 132000 IN PRISON AND TORTURED 13000 M RAP,.....ED MORE THAN 4000 SUNNI WOMEN THOSE MILITIA THUGS ARE WORSE THAN SERBIAN ARMY , WHERE IS USA WHEN WE NEED THEM!!!///

    January 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Reply
  8. Moro

    Which Egyptians told you that Iraq was a barbarous place compared to Egypt, Mr. Abrams? Mubarak himself? Well, I think the victims of the state-led violence under Mubarak would have to disagree with that one.

    January 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  9. khadija

    There are some Egyptians who may think Mubarak should be executed or punished, but there are many who want him back as a remarable President who served his country in war and peace for 62 years.

    January 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
    • Diana Hughes

      Your comment is 100 % correct, Khadija. I agree with every word. i have many egyptian friends who would also be in total agreement with your true remarks.

      January 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  10. AMB

    While I think Mr. Abrams got it wrong to some extent... mentioning the change in political culture when comparing the way King Farouk was sent to exile vs. the call for Mubarak's execution is not comparing apples to apples. Not so long ago (well relatively) the ruler of Egypt Mohamed Aly (great great grandfather for King Farouk) gathered his foes (the Mamluks) at his palace for dinner and then slaughtered them all on the way out. So Egyptian political culture has both spectrums. Now the issue with Mubarak is that a "media noisy" portion of the population are sympathetic... he was not Saddam after all (not to many at least) and then there are those who simply looked up to the leader as the Pharoh and capital punishment might not be the most effective justice in their view. So instead of creating a split in society I think exile might be the solution. It will hurt him more than just killing him and it will not be viewed as "harsh" vengeance by the rest.

    As for the person who referred to Muslims as evil... you need to learn and you have a long way to go. Barbaric acts exist all over and do not (and should not) stain a whole religion. Killing Qaddhafi the way it happened and sending people to an overseas jail like Guantanamo are two sides to the same coin. Faith in God has nothing to do with it.

    January 7, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
    • Diana Hughes

      I agree that exile is a very good solution. He will not be safe in Egypt anyway and he would be in grave danger anyway. He should be sent somewhere where he would live an ordinary life and not be well known so that he could relax and not be in any danger of assassination. He is nearly 84 and has suffered enough. he is no threat to egypt or anywhere else. As you say, this solution could please everyone.

      January 29, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply

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