Sunday, June 3, 2012

And sometimes justice just happens

It was 1981. Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, was sitting in the stands watching a military parade and basking in the glory of being seen as a man of peace after sitting down with President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1979.

The the parade came to a halt and shots were fired into the stands. Mr. Sadat was mortally wounded and Hosni Mubarak took charge.

Over the next 30 years, Mr. Mubarak ruthlessly stopped dissent, whether it came from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood or secular groups. He benefited from millions of dollars in military aid from the United States who had no qualms about arming brutal dictators around the world.

That all came to a grinding halt in the Spring of 2011 when protesters occupied Tahrir Square on January 25 in what was the start of Egypt's Arab Spring. But Mr. Mubarak was not one to go down quietly. He sat and twiddled his thumbs as security forces murdered unarmed protesters in the streets. But, when his army refused to turn their guns on their countrymen, Mr. Mubarak's days were numbered.

In the aftermath of his downfall the military took charge. Parliamentary elections were held and the Muslim Brotherhood and other conservative Islamist parties took the wind out of the revolution's sails. When the Egyptian people walked into the polls for the first ever election for President, the revolutionaries were once again disappointed when the top two vote-getters were a candidate from the Muslim Brotherhood and Mr. Mubarak's last prime minister.

This past week brought a measure of satisfaction to those who risked their lives to stand up to Mr. Mubarak, however, when a court convicted the former president and sentenced him to life in prison for his role in the deaths of over 800 protesters.

No, the sentence doesn't bring back those who died in the Arab Spring and it doesn't bring back those who died at the hands of Mr. Mubarak during his 30 years in power. But it does send a message that heads of state are not above the law.

Of course we all know that it's the winners who make the law and Mr. Mubarak was clearly on the losing side of the revolution. But maybe, just maybe, government officials around the world who persist in violating the human rights of others, will see the inside of a courtroom and will be made to answer for their crimes.

Please excuse George W. Bush and Barack Obama if they aren't applauding the decision.

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