Muhammad Morsi, Egypt’s former President and aged 67, has died of a reported heart attack in a public court appearance in Egypt after speaking for five minutes, according to State TV in Egypt. His death was Kafkaesque. Morsi, a loyal member of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, replaced Hosni Mubarak in the first democratic election in Egypt’s history in 2012 after the Arab Revolution in 2011. However, his stint in office was short-lived. Despite winning the Presidency, he was undermined by the security services, the military, and the Mubarak-era courts.
The military removed Morsi from power in 2013 and he has since been imprisoned. The Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who is now President of Egypt, played a critical role in Morsi’s downfall. Since then, Morsi has been made to make appearances to answer for crimes such as torture and espionage in Egypt’s notoriously flawed court system. The outlawed group Morsi was part of, The Muslim Brotherhood has claimed that the death of one of their most loyal members was “full-fledged murder” on behalf of the Egyptian State.
Previously, the Muslim Brotherhood was banned but tolerated by Mubarak’s government. In 2014, Sisi said the group “will not exist” when he wins the country’s Presidential elections. Today, the group is much less organized and structured; with most members in Doha or Istanbul. Hamas, the group that de facto controls the Gaza strip and that has close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, has expressed sympathy for the death of Morsi. His “unforgettable and brave positions” were commended for the ease of trade and travel between Egypt and Gaza during his Presidency. The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has also expressed condolences.
Egypt’s chief prosecutor Nabil Sadek is examining the cause of Morsi’s death as the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are concerned of Morsi’s treatment in custody. Calls for an impartial, thorough and transparent investigation have been raised, however, with the State’s institutions acting under the influence of current President Sisi, this looks unlikely to happen. The death of Egypt’s only democratically elected President will go down as a footnote in history.
The current report so far reads that no mistreatment has occurred and therefore, the state is not to blame. However, it is well known that Morsi was held at the infamous Tora prison under grim conditions. It is also reported that Morsi suspected that the guards were trying to poison his food. Moreover, he was being held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time and denied sufficient medical care. This is in stark contrast to the treatment of another ex-President Hosni Mubarak. He was not held in Tora prison, but in a military hospital and is reported to now be enjoying retirement.
The Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules, were adopted in December 2015 by the United Nations and set out general practices on ethical and moral confinement of prisoners under international law. It seems Egypt has violated many principles, both legal and moral, in the treatment of Muhammad Morsi. But the final medical report of the chief prosecutors given the findings of the forensic examiners can provide correct details of his death.
For now, this case serves to highlight a myriad of developing themes in international affairs; A country sliding back into dictatorship; The weakness of international law and the lack of political will to enforce them; And religious, regional rivalries dividing countries and people in a never-ending game of geopolitics and divide-and-rule.
Although Morsi was a poor President who mishandled the economy, this was no justification for the army’s actions in launching a coup, suspending the constitution, and killing and detaining Morsi supporters in the aftermath of Sisi’s coming to power in 2014. Being aware of this harsh reality is the first step to realizing how difficult, but worthwhile, it is to work to attain peace in an often unjust and complex world.