In contrast, there is the lawsuit against former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, which should have encompassed the whole period of his rule, starting with the military coup he carried out against a democratically elected government in 1989, through the human rights violations, his responsibility for the loss of South Sudan, for the collapse of the state, for the civil wars and for the massacres carried out by militias he created.
Where did all the poverty come from?
At the same time, the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak should not have focussed solely on a single issue; what was actually needed was a hearing about his whole rule, with all its transgressions and corruption.
Don’t the questions about the acquisition of personal wealth and succession in a republic merit a fair and full hearing? What about the turning of Egypt into a police state?

What about the systematic human rights violations committed by its security services? What about the brutal murder of the blogger Khaled Said who subsequently became the icon of the revolution?

We wonder where the poverty in Egypt comes from. If the regime is not responsible for its spread, is the international aid system or unemployment?
For instance, who was responsible during Mubarak’s rule, for the imprisonment of Karim Amer and for the psychological torture which he suffered in Egypt’s prisons for 3 years beginning in 2006? And why were Amer and dozens of others charged with "insulting the president", as well as facing trumped up charges relating to Islam?
The abuse and ill-treatment in prison knew no boundaries, and Amer later wrote about the prison officer who assaulted him and kept him locked up. Where is Amer today and what became of the victims of these brutal regimes?
A few days ago I watched a documentary made by Amer after he quit Egypt and the Arab world for Europe. What Arab rulers don’t realize is how the grievances, and what is behind them, stretch across the globe. Moreover, they linger and fester because they have never been addressed.
How can we get rid of a tyrant, if we don’t call him to account based on what we know are his duties, role and responsibilities towards his people? Without a trial of his actions, tyranny will return in a new form and shape, and it will take with it the rest of the Arab world.
One of the most dangerous and complex issues in the region is the relationship between the people and the state. The state was and continues to be a means of enrichment, repression, subjugation and corruption. This does not mean that the state and the political system have made no advances, but these developments result from the intersection of interests, not because of society’s goals or the advancement of its people.
Indeed, the real charge against the Arab despots is that they destroyed their peoples and their states. This does not mean that we should lock up all our presidents as some want; nor does it mean taking them out, as happened to Muammar Gaddafi, or executing them in Saddam’s case.
That kind of revenge won’t bring an end to tyranny. Rather, it is more important that we should hold to account the whole era, including all its symbols, its culture and its ugliness, in order to build a state which will end tyranny and the malaise it brings with it.
Arabs today are on a quest for serious reform and comprehensive transformation so that they emerge from this pit into which the tyrants have sealed them.
Shafiq Ghabra
© 2019
Translated from the Arabic by Chris Somes-Charlton
Shafiq Nazim al-Ghabra is a well-known political analyst and Professor of Political Science at Kuwait University.
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Comments for this article: Prosecuting tyranny in the Arab world

Please, use this version if you are publishing my comment, which I doubt it.


I totally agree with you that all the four despots you focused on must face trial, but that must be done by the people of the respective countries without any foreign interference, regional or international.

I am wondering though why shouldn't we include those who supported those despots for decades through various means and prolonged the life expectancy of those repressive regimes, be it well-known Western leaders who dined and wined with them, heads of international institutions which strengthened them although many of them were hanging by a fine thread, Western banks that helped the flight of capital and corruption...

Did not the French government /regime in 1988 supported and turned a blind eye on the Algerian regime when it cancelled the elections and the crimes it committed afterwards?

Did not the American regime and its allies support Saddam Hussein's regime in his war against Iran? When the Republican Guards were slaughtering those who rose up in 1991, the American troops stood by and watched.

When Iraqi troops were fleeing Kuwait, the American forces slaughtered them although they were retreating, not fighting.

It is sufficient to say that Mubarak was supported by the Western and non-Western regimes for decades despite the latter knowing the repression and corruption the regime engaged in. And that support continues today but to even a more repressive despot.

Similarly, the French regime supported Ben Ali's regime and, as the FT reported in January 2011, it expressed its willing to send special forces to support Ben Ali just a couple of days before he was overthrown/he fled the country.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the consequences its brought with it, including the breeding ground for ISIS. Who must be held responsible for that?

Shall I assume also that despite what has happened in Libya since 2011, from the killing to slavery, NATO's intervention was worth it?

Ndeem06.10.2019 | 18:42 Uhr