There is one thing clearly at the root of Egypt’s current dissolution as a ‘state’, and it is the absolute absence of justice. The police force, at best, is supposedly fighting off the terrorist bombing waves, and the army is supposedly liberating Sinai from the Bedouins. Go figure.
The Executive : Cops
The police force’s absent-minded presence, when they used to patrol around in their shiny new cars during the Mubarak era, is slimmer, not quite to be seen. They huddle, they close off streets they’re worried about, they continue to use their half-trucks and metal barriers to choke traffic, giving themselves and others perhaps, an illusion of control. Never mind that there might not even be an officer there. Never mind that sometimes, afraid to wear their bulls-eye uniforms they’re dressed like civilians…like…armed…civilians…waving you down…with their guns.
Never mind all that, the point was their slim, corrupt, money-leeching presence provided people with the illusion of security, and with that gone, crime has gone up – not quite surprising.
The police force have always mostly served the interests of the powerful. Sure, if a decent cop saw a man attack a woman on the street, he might move to intervene, but, by and large, the police as a ‘police force’ only really materialize if this is a case that matters to ‘somebody’. This pattern has not changed, but has been complimented by a lot of security activity against protesters, often workers or students. The police, again, serving the interests of powerful people in high places, but here, collectively, and rightfully referred to as ‘the regime’.
The Judiciary: Courts
The police issues in themselves are massive, but they are made much worse by the fact that, to the average man on the street, there is no ‘arbitrator’ that he can trust. The Judiciary have shown such complete disregard for integrity that they have literally become irrelevant, it is clear that they no longer decide what the executive shall do, but merely rubber-stamp it. This has been a growing concern for decades, but it has never felt the way it does now, with tens of thousands detained and more than two thousand lives lost, and the justice system; between the prosecution and the judiciary, have not imposed nearly enough accountability. People used to feel that courts were slow, that some judges were corrupt, that a lawsuit was expensive and time-consuming, that the system was inherently broken, but that it mostly chugged along, eventually produced more right decisions than wrong ones, and that, unless you were in court against a truly powerful man, then you had a fighting chance.
There’s none of this now. This all fell apart several times. Too many deadly blows to credibility. Who did Mubarak kill? Nobody, apparently. Who did Tantawi kill? Well, nobody apparently. Who did Morsi kill? Well, all the ones you thought Mubarak and Tantawi killed. Who did Sisi kill? Oh, he’s fighting terrorism. Nobody held accountable for March 2011, nobody held accountable for April 2011, or July 23rd, or Maspero, or Mohamed Mahmoud, nobody held accountable for anything, all the way down to Rabaa. Nobody held accountable for the incredible lack of security protocol that led to the murder of young men conscripted by the military in cold, deliberate, blood – more than twenty executed while they lay face down on the ground, and another seven murdered in their unguarded sleep. Who watches over the watchmen? You might ask? The fear inside every average Egyptian right now is asking the very same question, or has given up, and decided there is no state, there is no law, what you can do is yours to do.
The one thing that actually binds a state together is the feeling that there is a resort. When you suffer, you go to a judge. If you got robbed, you go to the judge. If you son got murdered, you go to the judge. If you’re not getting paid according to the constitution or the law, you go to the judge. If your basic rights are being trampled on, you go to the damn judge.
Take that away, and you’re left not only with no state, but no functional social system, because this is not just the absence of a ‘regime’ (which isn’t half as ‘destabilizing’) – but the absence of community.
Anarchists know the difference, and do not confuse a set of laws for a state. States are hierarchical machines, built on power and centralization, the judiciary is far more than that; it is the backbone that allows people to negotiate with each other on a shared platform of trust. You may not know each other, but you’re both accepting of the ‘courts’ – and that’s why you write a contract, because you’re hoping that if a problem happens between the two of you, the judge will read the contract the way you read it. You both agree to words, and the meaning of those words is established by language and local convention, but it is settled in a court, by a judge.
The absence of a credible justice system is the single greatest threat to Egypt, and the erosion of law will necessarily reflect as a dissolution of the state.
Judges have to be credible.