Revkin and Auf in The Atlantic: Egypt’s Fallen Police State Gives Way to Vigilante Justice


RN Associate Mara Revkin and RN Constitutional Advocate Yussef Auf, in an article for the global edition of The Atlantic, provide a summary analysis of the virtual absence of national security in Egypt and the attendant rise of violent vigilante justice predominantly carried out by hard line Islamist parties through groups they designate “popular committees”.  Citing recent legislative efforts within the Islamist-dominated parliament to legalize citizen militias and the expansion of Islamic criminal law, the authors note that “…Egypt’s government has done little to discourage the devolution of law enforcement functions to non-state actors.”

Egypt’s Fallen Police State Gives Way to Vigilante Justice
Mara Revkin and Yussef Auf | Apr 3 2013

In recent months, Egypt has experienced a wave of public lynchings targeting suspected criminals. In one particularly extreme case, two young men accused of stealing a motorized rickshaw in a Nile Delta town were stripped naked by a mob of 3,000 people, hung by their feet from the roof of a bus station, and beaten to death. Meanwhile, police have refused to intervene in the attacks. When one witness called local police to break up a lynch mob in Sharqiya, he was told, “After they die, call us back.”

The outsourcing of law enforcement functions to vigilantes is an admission of state failure and an insult to a revolution inspired by demands for justice and rule of law.

Two years after a revolution that brought down Hosni Mubarak’s police state, Egypt’s security vacuum is being filled by armed vigilantes whose version of justice is based on Islamic law, not the constitution. As President Mohamed Morsi’s embattled government struggles to contain lawlessness, increasingly violent anti-Brotherhood protests, and nationwide police strikes, nostalgia for the days of military rule is on the rise, with a recent opinion poll indicating that 82 percent of Egyptians want the army to return to power. The fact that so many Egyptians are willing to trade their hard-won freedom for martial law is an alarming indicator of the state’s inability to enforce order. With public confidence in the official law enforcement agencies and justice system at an all-time low, hardline Islamists are exploiting an opportunity to fill the void with vigilante militias that Egypt’s own Justice Minister has described as “one of the signs of the death of the state.” (continue reading)

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