The international legal team appointed by the Freedom and Justice Party announced yesterday in London that representatives of the “legitimate Egyptian government” have launched an international case against the current Egyptian authorities and in support of the ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The legal team has now filed a complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing the coup leaders of crimes against humanity, overthrowing a democratically elected president, and rounding up thousands of Egyptians.
The ICC was established in 2002 as the first court capable of prosecuting individuals accused of crimes against humanity. By May 2013, 122 states had signed the statute of the Court. Since only signatories can file complaints, Egypt is excluded as it has not yet signed the statute.
However, the legal team is arguing that the court can still investigate the case of Egypt, in accordance with article 12 (3) of the Rome Statute. Legal experts say that, as per the statute, non-signatory states can still delegate the court to investigate war crimes perpetrated on their territories, which would apply to Egypt. Accordingly, the “legitimate government” of President Morsi authorised the legal team to file the case.
The ICC has not responded yet. According to the London-based Arabi 21 newspaper, an historical precedent was set after the court accepted a similar case in 2011, when the internationally recognised winner of presidential elections in the Ivory Coast, Alassane Ouattara, authorised the court to investigate war crimes committed in his country between 2010 and 2011, after his predecessor Laurent Gbagbo tried to use government institutions to declare himself the electoral winner. As a result, the ICC arrested Gbagbo, and continues investigating the accusations of his complicity in war crimes that claimed the lives of more than 3,000 Ivorian citizens.
This track, if pursued by the ICC, will disrupt the Egyptian political scene dominated by the coup leaders. If the court accepts the complaint, it will change everything in Egypt and abroad, and a new phase will start, thus correcting the disastrous path of the largest Arab country back towards democracy. However, if the court turns down the complaint, Egypt will likely slide into the Algerian scenario. And if that were to happen, we will yearn for the return of Morsi’s one year in power.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.