Have crimes against humanity been committed in Egypt?
August 26th, 2013
08:49 AM ET

Have crimes against humanity been committed in Egypt?

By Charles R. Kennedy Jr, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Charles R. Kennedy Jr., is an associate professor of management at the Wake Forest School of Business in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. The views expressed are his own.

As the debate continues over whether the United States should (or indeed has) cut-off aid to Egypt in light of the ongoing brutal crackdown, Washington should perhaps be asking itself another question: have crimes against humanity been committed?

This suggestion might at first glance seem outlandish to some. And yet with about a thousand dead so far (many of whom were most likely killed with U.S.-supplied arms), it is worth noting that the numerous attacks on unarmed, civilian protesters do indeed fit the official definition of such crimes.

According to the International Criminal Court: “any of the following acts committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder…persecution against an identifiable group on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious or gender grounds…and other inhuman acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious bodily or mental injury.”

The actions of Egypt’s military since last month’s coup are clearly consistent with such a definition, and the United States must therefore ask itself whether it can continue to conduct business with General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. After all, more civilians have been killed in the past two weeks by Egyptian security forces than were reportedly killed in the first six months of Syria’s uprising by the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, whom the Obama administration urged to step aside back in 2011.

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So what should the U.S. do now? A suspension of military aid and weapons purchases, if combined with a demand that General el-Sisi step down as army chief, would place significant pressure on the Egyptian military to change its current course of action. In addition, the United States should publicly state at the U.N. Security Council that it will seek an investigation into events, while privately it could urge el-Sisi to seek exile in Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates.

Some might advise that such action is too bold, and hope instead that the situation in Egypt will settle down, allowing elections like the relatively stable and free democratic ones conducted last year, which were described by Freedom House as “close to international standards.”

Sadly, any election conducted in the foreseeable future will not be free and competitive because Islamist parties will not be allowed to take part. In fact, their leaders would most likely remain in detention – political prisoners as the military conducts polls akin to the rigged (or least very tightly controlled) elections seen during the Mubarak era.

If an election is held under these conditions, Egypt could find itself an authoritarian police state with democratic trappings. More likely, the military crackdown will fail to fully suppress the Islamists, who will then respond with a violent and widespread insurgency from their rural strongholds. Such a situation would be attractive to jihadists from around the world, who would likely be drawn to the fray much as they have in Syria.

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Of course, some argue that given Saudi and United Arab Emirate money, cutting off U.S. aid would merely be symbolic. But this ignores the high cost to the Egyptian military when they are unable to upgrade or buy new weapons systems from the United States.

There are other questions that halting aid would raise: What about the potential for Israeli-Palestinian talks to be derailed? And could the U.S. find itself shut out from the Suez Canal? Sadly, the former question is best answered with another question: How great are the prospects right now for a breakthrough in negotiations? And the idea that the United States would find access to the Suez Canal limited seems far-fetched at a time when growing concerns over Iran’s nuclear program mean that Saudi Arabia and the UAE both want an American presence in the region in the event of a confrontation.

Finally, some argue that Egypt today ultimately faces a simple choice between military stability and anarchy. But this ignores a third outcome that is still possible with U.S. pressure: national reconciliation and atonement.

Peacefully resolving the current crisis will not be possible without an investigation into the events of recent weeks, with those responsible being held to account. And such a process must start with General el-Sisi resigning to allow a new army chief of staff to mediate a power-sharing arrangement that restores many of the personal freedoms and liberties that have been whisked away from the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. One option could be a tripartite Executive Council composed of the new army chief, a representative of the anti-Morsy opposition not tainted by recent events, and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, appointed by a restored President Morsy, who resigns and transfers executive powers to this three-person committee. A majority vote approach on the Executive Council could then be used to steer the country toward a new constitutional system, one that Egyptians choose through their leaders.

Recent events have made the United States look hypocritical, and bolstered the widely held opinion in the Muslim world that the U.S. only supports elected leaders when it suits American interests. If the United States wants to avoid stoking radicalism in the region it must take bold action. If not, whenever America attempts to weigh in on the side of fair and non-violent elections, it will be met with a shrug of the shoulders and the words: “So what about Egypt?”

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Topics: Egypt

soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Quinton

    How does any army gun down over 1,000 people without committing a crime against humanity? Regardless, those thugs will get away with it and this will in no way stop Barack Obama from throwing another $1.3B at the Egyptian military. Then again, back on Feb. 13, 1991, two American pilots flying over Baghdad in a 117-f bomber blew up the Amriya air raid shelter and murdered well over 414 civilians in that city and to date, no one has ever been held accountable! Where is the justice in that, I wonder?

    August 26, 2013 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • William

      The secular Egyptian army is trying to prevent crimes against humanity committed by Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood religious fanatics were killing people in the name of their god. Thanks to the Egyptian army, the secular people will get their country back from these religious fanatics who are oppressing innocent people and trampling on the rights of minorities. Muslim brotherhood needs to be stopped.

      August 26, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
      • kenny

        What crimes against humanity have the MB committed while in power? Before they came to power, they were the bedrock of the social and economic development for the poor and under privileged. They were instrumental in providing healthcare, education and economic possibilities for those who were not able to afford it. They were the fledgling grassroots of the Egyptian society, and if I didn't remember wrongly purged the radicalized elements out of it's own ranks.

        When they started running for office in the 1970s, they were not violent at all, and in fact, were far more peaceful and moderate in their attempt to achieve seats in the parliament compared to Mubarak's secular government. They did not pose any theological threat, merely a democratic political threat to the establishment.

        In the end, what the reported facts have shown is that they were inept in ruling a country, and hence ended up making mistakes everywhere. So where are these "crimes against humanity" you speak of? Attempting to win elections with a religious tone? Doesn't that sound similar to the US? hmm...

        August 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
      • Quinton

        Well put, kenny. The Muslim Brotherhood is far preferable to the Mubarak dictatorship which did absolutely nothing for the people of Egypt except to ignore them completely!

        August 26, 2013 at 9:08 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        @William, the Brotherhood had no experience in governance. Morsi appointed Sisi as army chief, who was responsible for crackdowns on anti-Morsi protesters. The same armed forces later on massacred Morsi supporters.

        August 27, 2013 at 7:44 am |
    • Mel

      This doesn't matter, Egypt has something we need mainly strategic importance, so murders don`t really have much meaning here. As Kerry would say ......."THESE ARE THE FACTS" !

      September 1, 2013 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  2. Sadik Shami

    This is the same Egypt we know? The one in the Middle East? I suggest that you stop this BS and respect the minds of the readers!! MB lost and you will have to work harder in training them for the next round.. Leave this state of denial and come back to the real world ..

    August 26, 2013 at 11:31 am | Reply
  3. Michael

    Hi I'm a black guy

    August 26, 2013 at 11:44 am | Reply
    • Quinton

      What has that to do with this post, Michael? We're discussing Egypt here!

      August 26, 2013 at 9:11 pm | Reply
      • Mel

        He can`t help it, He looked at Obama and somehow that equates to .........power I guess !

        September 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm |
  4. CB

    Egypt and Syria is the potential start of the holy war, which may spread over the Middle East which is whether we have a Midle East ruled by belief (Islam) OR logic (shamocracy). Unfortunately, there is so much monetary dependence by both the West and the East that the deal must be done behind the closed doors of diplomacy. This means that, as they take their time to decide, many will die. One day, the lives of people will stand over and above money.

    August 26, 2013 at 7:38 pm | Reply
    • CB

      Read my web site, http://www.caustic-bytes.co.uk to see more of this and the news page is updated daily.

      August 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm | Reply
  5. Maha Hamdy

    it is hard to believe that America is standing for humanity when all it does is deliberately look at one side of the story. if u need a proof of crimes against humanity committed against the Egyptian people by those who belong to the MB please abandon hypocracy and come to see the real pic on the ground. MB has always been a fanatical fashist secretive group that believes only in the democracy that helps their goals. HANDS OFF EGYPT – STOP SUPPORTING TERRORISM

    August 27, 2013 at 6:58 am | Reply
    • Mel

      Standing up for terrorism ? That's what we do here that's why we are going to bomb Assad, killings more people, and helping make that state an Terroist one. That's what we do best didn't you get the memo ?

      September 1, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    Although Chief justice Adly Mansour was sworn in as interim president in July, army chief General al-Sisi rules de facto Egypt.

    August 27, 2013 at 7:33 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      If the US could persuade Sisi to step down – a token gesture – and reinstate Morsi, only to convince him to resign, it might appease the Muslim Brotherhood.

      August 27, 2013 at 7:37 am | Reply
  7. kkrkstrust

    Dear Friends ,

    today we are talking about human rights in particular countries. The human rights frame work is getting changed based on individual countries requirements and leaders requirements for their survival , power and countries , arms , oil and gas – energy , medical , Drugs , Terrorists – internal / external want to control assets do business at the cost of ordinary human beings or middle class. This is divided rule and make money and survive at the cost of other civilizations or people in different form. This history was created by civilizations or societies to control power .

    Why super power nature tag is required is this only. The divided rule in South east asia – India aginest Pakistan and china. Pakistan and china are friends creating un rest in the region . For example Terrorism is there in Pakistan and reaching all over the world. Indian people and ordinary other nation how died in Mumbia attacks are sufferers.

    In India The biggest movement is going to stop Division of State of Andhra pradesh by corrupt political establishment and political criminals which in turn having links with global Trouble elements – Arms mafia , drugs , Counter fit notes , Cricket betting , illegal money transfers – black money / corruption money ( US$ 500 billion which is parked in USA , Europe etc ) . Did any of media or human rights or liberation movements addressed this . Around 50 Million telugu people are effecting. Even the criminal politicians who is brother in law Christian pastor who is part of biggest corruption scandal and mining mafia in AP people who are looking for power are keeping in touch American counsel officials for lobbying to close CBI corruption investigations. IS this is true democracy or true human rights frame work. The people who are looking for one stable India, one voice , one culture , one language , one peace full nation , one state is violation of human rights and liberty and fundamental rights of every citizen.

    Due to illegal mining to China around 30 million got effected ( International human rights watch report ). The present single state hood ( ANDHRA PRADESH – INDIA – EFFECTING 50 MILLION PEOPLE AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ) IS BIGGER MOVEMENTS IN EGYPT. CAN GLOBAL SQUARE TEAM CAN DIFFERENTIATE THIS WITH
    EGYPT – SECULAR HOOD TO MUSLIM BROTHER HOOD WITH OUR STATE ONE STATE HOOD , ONE CULTURE HOOD WITH REGIONS WISE HOOD. FOR POLITICAL POWER.

    THE CAUSE OF ORDINARY HUMAN BEINGS AND MIDDLE CLASS IS HAPPY LIFE AND PROSPERITY EVERY WHERE OR WORLD BUT IN DIFFERENT FORMS.

    HELP US OR SUPPORT US FOR ONE STATE HOOD ONE TELUGU VOICE. THIS IS BIGGER THAN PINK REVOLUTION.

    RAJU

    August 28, 2013 at 4:23 am | Reply
  8. jone

    plz put muslim brotherhood as terrorisrt organization tey kill christians in egypt
    i dont belive that mr obama an TALBAN say the same words against egyptian army

    August 28, 2013 at 9:27 am | Reply
  9. Yes they have

    By Islame.

    August 28, 2013 at 8:10 pm | Reply
  10. Ghada elsherbini

    I would like to pay tribute to the highly esteemed commander chief sisi who saved the egyptians from the muslim brotherhood hideous nightmare. The MB can never be forgiven after their horrible torment of innocent victims, and their bringing alqaeda into sinai

    August 31, 2013 at 3:59 am | Reply
  11. Ashraf Sabrin

    I wish Charles R. Kennedy were right about this. I wish it were true that the Egyptian military leaders could be tried for Crimes Against Humanity. Especially under the Rome Statue. Specifically the Crime of Aggression. But unfortunately, Egypt signed the Treaty but did not ratify it. Charles R. Kennedy Jr. What do you think of that? It has not been mentioned in your article.
    Ashraf Sabrin

    August 31, 2013 at 11:34 am | Reply
  12. Dallas

    Political Islam failed in Egypt and will fail in Syria too. No one in there right mind wants it. The Egypt Military did the right thing disposing of the elected official that turned dictator.

    September 2, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Reply

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