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Al-Qaradawi and the Egyptian military

December 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

It is now official. The International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) has placed Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi on its “wanted” list. The decision to issue a “red alert” for the arrest of the chair of the International Union of Muslim Scholars was made at the behest of the Egyptian government. Dr Al-Qaradawi has been a vocal critic of the military regime which, in July 2013, ousted Egypt’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in a coup. The noted cleric has “never killed anyone or incited anyone to kill”, so the Interpol decision seems a classic case of misdirected blame and ill-judged priorities.

The red alert for Al-Qaradawi was issued just days after an Egyptian court cleared the former military dictator Hosni Mubarak of conspiring to kill 846 protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule. The judgment overturned the life sentence Mubarak received in June 2012. There never was, and never will be, any talk of an international arrest warrant issued for Mubarak. Those who opine that he is too old to be pursued by the law should remember that Al-Qaradawi, at 88, is two years his senior.

The veteran Islamic scholar summed up the duplicity of his detractors thus: “There are those who killed thousands of innocent people at the Republican Guard headquarters [in Cairo] and at Rabaa Al-Adawiyya and Nahda Squares without any consideration for justice or law.”

In reality, the Interpol decision raises fundamental questions about its modus operandi. For a start, should international arrest warrants be issued strictly on the basis of verifiable evidence or simply at the whim of an accidental politician? Surely, if the former is adopted, then the Egyptian military leadership itself would have a lot to answer for.

On another level, there is also the question about whether international warrants should be used as a means to silence the critics and opposition of signatory governments? Suffice to say that institutions responsible for upholding the rule of law and international security can ill-afford to become instruments in the hands of dishonest politicians guilty of breaking the law.

At a time when the Middle East is plagued by destructive wars, the collapse of states and proliferation of weapons across borders, international agencies have everything to gain from preserving their own integrity. The example of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is particularly instructive. It is regarded by many as a blunt instrument used by western governments to target “unfriendly” leaders, mainly in Africa; as such, it has lost much of its credibility and respect as a force for justice.

Shortly before Interpol publicised its latest red alert, the nefarious conduct of the Egyptian military was exposed with the leak of audio recordings featuring several senior army officers discussing how to resolve the problem of where to detain Mohamed Morsi. Egyptian Law prohibits the detention of a civilian inside a military barracks for any period of time, but that is where the ousted president has been held.

The scandalous revelations bear striking resemblances to the Watergate affair for which the late US President Richard Nixon was forced to resign in the face of impeachment. In the absence of genuine democratic processes in Egypt, there is virtually no chance that any of the generals involved will ever face a court of law.

After Egypt sentenced 183 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death in June this year, Britain’s former Foreign Secretary William Hague noted that, “These sentences damage the reputation of Egypt’s judicial system…” Six months on, his observation has proven to be the understatement of the year.

Under the current circumstances, international organisations and institutions, including Interpol, owe a huge debt to the Egyptian people to avoid being complicit in providing cover for corrupt and criminal elements. If ever there are any doubts about what took place in Egypt during the summer of 2013 and thereafter, Interpol officials are obliged to examine the leaked audio recordings.

At the end of the day it is the Egyptian people, not Interpol, or any other international body, who will pass the final verdict on this dark period of their history. They will in the fullness of time learn the lessons from their current tragic condition and devise suitable ways to rebuild their judiciary and military institutions into independent but patriotic institutions that will not be a source of embarrassment and disgrace.

When public institutions lose their moral compass the consequences can often be catastrophic for society. In Egypt the signs are that the ramifications will be felt beyond its borders. The siege of Gaza and demolition of homes in Rafah are some of the earliest signs of things to come. Indeed President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi spelt it out clearer when he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that he is ready “to send military forces to a Palestinian state” in order to assist local police and “reassure the Israelis, serving as guarantors.”

Meanwhile Al-Qaradawi remains undeterred and steadfast believing in the total liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. For this, and little else it appears, he is now wanted by Interpol.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.