CAIRO: A new draft law to counter war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity is primarily intended to deter members of the Muslim Brotherhood from sabotaging state infrastructure, the head of an Egyptian rights group told The Cairo Post Saturday.
Head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) Hafez Abu Seada said the timing of the law, currently being considered by the Cabinet, indicates that the Brotherhood is its intended target.
“Under the new law, attacks on electricity pylons by the Muslim Brotherhood [would be] considered a crime against huminaty,” Seada said.
Attacking civilians or state infrastructure would be considered crimes against humanity under the law, punishable by imprisonment or a fine of 1-3 million EGP (U.S. $140,000-420,000.)
The Brotherhood has been widely blamed for attacking police and military forces in Egypt as well as targeting state infrastructure, such as electrical towers, since the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Square sit-ins in August 2013. The Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in December.
The Brotherhood has sought international legal condemnation of the violent dispersals, calling on the International Criminal Court to bring a case against the Egyptian governent.
“As Egypt has not signed or ratified the Rome Statute, the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not have the right to sue the Egyptian regime as the Brotherhood called for,” said Abdel-Ghaffar Shokr, vice president of the National Council for Human Rights and president of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party.
The ICC was founded by the Rome Statute in 2002 to “help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community,” according to the court’s website. So far, 122 countries have ratified the statute, bringing them uncer ICC jurisdiction.
“Egypt is not among the signatories,” Shokr told The Cairo Post, and consequently the ICC “could not intervene with the Brotherhood claimed that the Rabaa dispersal was a crime against humanity.”
“That’s why the Brotherhood is now calling on the UN Security Council to sue the Egyptian regime,” he added.
He suggested that the new draft law could prevent the international community, including the Security Council, from holding Egypt accountable, as “Egypt could hold itself accountable to the law.”
Potential for Use Against the Government
The new law may pave the way for the Brotherhood to bring a case agains the government over last summer’s violent sit-in dispersals.
The dispersal of Rabaa al-Adaweya and Nahda Squares on Aug. 14, 2013 had the largest death toll of any event in Egypt’s modern history since the Citadel Massacre in March 1811 by Mohamed Ali Pacha. The sit-ins, which formed in late June and early July 2013, denounced the army’s removal of then-President Mohamed Morsi July 3 following mass demonstrations calling on him to step down as a coup d’etat. The military moved to disperse the protestors the morning of Aug. 14, prompting a violent exchange of fire and leaving 623 dead, according to the National Council for Human Rights.
Human Rights Watch estimated that more than 1,000 may have been killed.
“Execution or rigorous imprisonment for no less than ten years are the penalties for those committing or engaging with others in large-scale or systematic attacks against civilians, including intentional killing of a person within the population, imposing harsh living conditions on civilians, deporting people with legal residence status, or raping women and impregnanting them with the intent of affecting the ethnic composition of any population,” stipulates Article 15 of the law.
The law would apparently be applied to those intending to commit or plan such crimes equally, regardless of their official capacity or any immunity they may be afforded. “Whoever holds Egyptian nationality or foreign nationality who commits or attempts to commit these crimes, stateless people or permanent residents in Egypt, will be subjected to the law,” according to the draft.
The draft law also imposes harsh penalties for war crimes.
In Article 16 makes execution or life imprisonment the penalty for commiting war crimes in the context of a domestic or international armed conflict. A minimum of five years imprisonment and a fine ranging from 500-500,000 EGP (U.S. $70-70,000) would be the penality for those who deprive a prisoner of a trial where judicial and procedural guarantees are provided by law, forces a prisoner to serve among the ranks of an enemy force, or destroys the enemy’s property in a manner not necessitated by the military forces.
“Execution or life imprisonment are the penalties for anyone who commits war crimes using prohibited fighting methods,” the draft law stipulates.