Members of the democratically elected Government of Egypt have submitted a formal Complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Complaint is accompanied by a Rome Statute Article 12 (3) Declaration giving the International Criminal Court jurisdiction over the situation in Egypt.
The submission of the complaint and declaration by the Government of Egypt allows the International Criminal Court’s Prosecutors to investigate allegations of Crimes against Humanity perpetrated by the military regime following the July 2013 coup d’état.
In July 2013 the Egyptian military led a coup d’état against Egypt’s first democratically elected Government. The coup resulted in the detention of the President and members of the Government of Egypt. In the days after the coup the military regime used extreme force to remove civilians who gathered to protest against the coup. At least a thousand civilians lost their lives and many more were injured during this time. Since then the military regime has attempted to consolidate its position by repressing pro-democracy activists of all types who object to the coup, banning protests and designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation.
As a result of actions taken by the military regime Egypt’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and members of the Shura Council (the Upper House of the Egyptian Parliament) appointed an international legal team to advise on the unlawful detention of members of the Government and to investigate criminal acts that had been committed by the military regime.
The legal team is led by Tayab Ali, solicitor and partner of leading human rights law firm ITN Solicitors and includes some of the world’s most distinguished legal figures. It includes the former UK Director of Public Prosecutions, Lord Ken Macdonald QC; South African International Lawyer and former UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur, Professor John Dugard SC; renowned human rights barrister, Michael Mansfield QC; war crimes and criminal law expert Stephen Kamlish QC and the distinguished International Criminal Court barrister, Rodney Dixon.
In November 2013 the legal team detailed evidence that had been gathered during their investigation which showed a prima facie case that the military, police and political members of the regime had committed crimes against humanity against Egyptian civilians protesting against the coup.
The Complaint, which was submitted to the ICC on 20 December 2013, includes detailed and compelling evidence that the criminal acts perpetrated by the military regime include murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture, persecution against an identifiable group, enforced disappearance of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health. The evidence shows that the acts alleged were widespread and systematic.
At a press conference held in Cavendish Hotel, Mayfair, London on Monday members of the legal team detailed the work that had been undertaken to submit the complaint. International Criminal Court legal expert and barrister Rodney Dixon explained that the International Criminal Court should open an investigation into the very serious allegations of international crimes and should do so without delay. He stated: “The ICC has a unique opportunity to contribute to the prevention of widespread crimes being committed against civilians in Egypt. By launching an investigation now the ICC Prosecutor will send a clear signal that the killings and abuses will not go unpunished and must end.”
London solicitor Tayab Ali stated that he had received “overwhelming evidence” from witnesses giving firsthand accounts of what they had seen and experienced. According to Mr. Ali the testimony is supported by graphic images of violence carried out against unarmed civilian protestors. He said “In order for Egypt to return to the democratic process it is essential that the people responsible for the violence following the coup are held accountable for their crimes. There is no hope for democracy and the rule of law in Egypt unless international legal institutions do the job they have been created to do”.
Michael Mansfield QC said “A democratically elected government has been unlawfully overthrown by a military coup. This in itself contravenes the Rule of Law. There has been no accountability for this action which involved clearly documented crimes against humanity. In circumstances where domestic law has failed to provide an effective remedy, it behoves the institutions of international law to seek the application of that law”.
Senior barrister Stephen Kamlish QC outlined the strategy of using the principles of universal jurisdiction to prosecute members of the military regime wherever they should travel to. He explained the growing move by national courts to apply principles of universal jurisdiction and prosecute people suspected of international crimes regardless of where the crimes had been committed.
Former United Nations Special Rapporteur, Professor John Dugard said “The International Criminal Court was established to ensure that crimes against humanity do not go unpunished. It is therefore essential that the Court investigate and prosecute those responsible for the commission of such crimes in Egypt. It is hoped that the present initiative will achieve this purpose and at the same time deter the commission of further such crimes. The International Criminal Court, and indeed the international community, cannot allow an unconstitutional, unrecognised and illegal regime in Egypt to commit grave international crimes with impunity.”
Members of the legal team are expected to meet with the ICC prosecutor over the coming days and weeks in order to support the work the ICC must now undertake. Tayab Ali said “It is essential that the people of Egypt unite to rebuild democracy. This cannot happen until those who have committed crimes against humanity have been held to account”.