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In the prince’s service

Director of US organisation Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth has been allowing his friendship with Qatari royalty to cloud his views on Egypt

Hany Ghoraba , Wednesday 13 Feb 2019
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The US organisation Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) new-found hobby is condemning the victims of terrorism instead of the terrorists themselves.

In the latest iteration of HRW’s shoddy reports about Egypt, it condemns the execution of three Muslim Brotherhood members who plotted and killed 26-year-old Mohamed Al-Morli, the son of an Egyptian judge, in cold blood in front of his house in 2014.

The assailants opened fire on Al-Morli, mistakenly believing him to be an officer with the Ministry of Interior as part of the terrorism wave targeting security officers after the 30 June Revolution that ousted Muslim Brotherhood rule.

As the date implies, this crime did not take place recently, and the trial of those responsible has taken years in the courts. The capture of the three culprits was made after months of investigations that finally led to the three assailants.

Subsequent investigations confirmed that the three had indeed committed the crime, and a court in Mansoura sentenced them to death for premeditated murder in July 2016.

This sentence was confirmed in December 2017 by the Court of Cassation, which rejected an appeal filed by the defendants’ attorneys. On 7 February, the execution of the three murderers took place in Alexandria after five years of investigations and court procedures.

The sentences and trials of the three Brotherhood members who committed this murder were thus not arbitrary or politically motivated, as HRW statements and Brotherhood-affiliated networks have claimed.

The three murderers had confessed to the crime, believing that the victim was an officer, someone whom, for them, was a fair target.

The crime took place after the Muslim Brotherhood declared war on the Egyptian state through its call for “general mobilisation” made upon the capture of supreme guide Mohamed Badie.

Since then, group members of all ages and ranks have targeted security officers, army officers, public officials, citizens, and even public services with assassinations and bombings.

Thousands of reported attacks have taken place from 2013 until today, with thousands of victims being targeted especially by Brotherhood armed wings Hasm and Liwaa Al-Thawra.

The death penalty is still applicable in over 50 countries today, including the US (the home country of HRW) and Japan. However, the intention here is not to discuss the morality of this punishment, but instead to elaborate on HRW’s relentless efforts to label the Egyptian judiciary system, older than that of many countries, as biased and politicised.

Reviewing a report by HRW about Egypt is not far from reviewing one by terrorist Muslim Brotherhood online networks such as Ikhwanweb. The Muslim Brotherhood’s propaganda apparatus, which includes the satellite TV channel AlJazeera, a few newspapers, and now NGOs such as HRW, has claimed that the motives behind the death sentences were purely political.

The allegations of torture included in the HRW statements were based on a letter written by one of the convicts, presumably smuggled outside the prison, and nothing else.

The report neglects the fact that the majority of the terrorist group’s leaders, including the supreme guide, are behind bars in the custody of the government.

If the government had wished to “send a message”, it could have used one of the chief leaders of the group to send it instead of three little-known members.

Moreover, the HRW statements purposely ignore the fact that court procedures in Egypt can take months if not years, and in the case of the three murderers it took five years to achieve justice for the victim and his family.

The innocent victim was a young man who was killed in front of his home by terrorists. He is not mentioned in HRW’s morally questionable statements.

But Al-Morli was but one innocent victim among the many thousands who have been killed or injured at the hands of Muslim Brotherhood terrorism. That terrorism is funded and sponsored by none other than director of HRW Kenneth Roth’s close friend Prince Tamim bin Hamad of Qatar.

Roth’s dubious relations with Qatari royalty have led him to become a mouthpiece for Bin Hamad. In a tweet issued in February 2018,

Roth bluntly wrote that Qatar emir denounces people in region who commit war crimes and are then candidates for president. He could mean Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi.

Or without the “election”, the Saudi crown prince.

HRW And Qatar

Yet, Roth is talking about his close friend the Qatari prince as if the latter were some sort of Jeffersonian democrat or elected official. Instead, he is the absolute monarch of a tiny principality that has sponsored more terrorism than any regime in modern history and is only rivalled by the Iranian one.

Some of the most notorious terrorists in the world have chosen Qatar as a haven, making it resemble for terrorists what Tortuga, an island off the coast of Haiti, was for pirates in the 17th century.

In that safe haven, terrorists are plotting attacks against their own countries with the blessings of Roth’s beloved emir.

Moreover, Qatar remains the only country in the world using Southeast Asian slave labour to build billions of dollars’ worth of buildings in preparation for the 2022 football World Cup amidst general international condemnation. Preaching human rights while at the same time using slave labour doesn’t really add up.

HRW has a reputation for shoddy human rights reporting that relies on anonymous witnesses and hearsay evidence. Since the massive donation by US billionaire George Soros in 2010 of some $100 million, the organisation has become a front for propaganda presented under the guise of apparently neutral human rights reports, especially about the Middle East.

Under Roth’s leadership, HRW has been criticised by many for its shallow and biased investigations, but the one criticism that tops them all was by none other than its original founder and former president Robert L Bernstein.

Bernstein accused HRW of poor research methods and an over-reliance on “witnesses whose stories cannot be verified and who may testify for political advantage”.

What we are witnessing in the case of the execution of the three murderers of the Egyptian judge’s son is an illustration of the testament of HRW’s own founder regarding the poor shape the organisation has reached under Roth’s direction.

Kenneth Roth no longer cares about the thousands of victims and their families in Egypt and the rest of the world resulting from the massive wave of terrorism that has taken the world by storm since the January 2011 Arab Spring.

Instead, he defends the terrorists’ rights and not those of their victims. This twisted logic has made the reports of the organisation he heads questionable.

The Egyptian judicial system with its long traditions may be imperfect, but one of its imperfections is slow action and court cases that can last years between different courts.

This was exactly what happened in the case of the trial of the killers of Al-Morli, when the case passed through several levels of arbitration over recent years.

After these years of investigations, the convicts were found guilty as the result of a procedure that bears no resemblance to the politically motivated sentences claimed by HRW.

Politically motivated sentences are swift, and they don’t take five years in the courts to attain. Even so, it seems likely that HRW will continue to ignore this and will carry on with its prejudicial agenda against the Egyptian state as the price of its services has already been paid for in advance.

* The writer is a political analyst and author of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the Winding Road to Democracy. 

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 February, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: In the prince’s service

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