Rule of law is the artery of any nation; how well arteries function determines whether the human body is in good health or in bad shape. In Egypt, sadly, rule of law is often designed to trap citizens; its hasty application encourages society at large to engage in illegal activities, aware that a large portion of Egyptian citizens often break the law and manage to get away with it.
The essence of rule of law is to clearly define citizens’ rights, protect their properties and apply justice to all citizens equally. In Egypt, we have a great number of good laws, but law enforcement is haphazard, and there is no orderly system. In other words, law enforcement is manipulated by the state and rule of law is applied selectively to some citizens and not to others; a mechanism that that has been functioning in Egypt smoothly (but destructively) for decades – and which has nothing to do with justice.
Rule of law was invented to serve the fundamental purpose of crime prevention. Citizens should be convinced that any given law is formulated for their benefit and that it will be used (sooner rather than later) to prosecute lawbreakers. Knowing that lawbreakers will be brought to justice and prosecuted fairly will discourage citizens from engaging in criminal activity. However, Egyptian citizens believe that they have a better chance of getting away with illegal activity than of being held accountable; therefore, the crime rate is rising in Egypt and illegal activity is spreading!
Rule of law in Egypt functions like a seashore with high and low tides! When the tide is low, citizens break the law frequently and at a high scale, comfortably bribing government officials. At high tide, the government fines lawbreakers (who have the possibility of paying higher bribes to reduce the fine). For example, property owners who regularly break the law by building floors in excess of the permitted number initially bribe state officials to turn a blind eye on their illegal construction activity. These same officials may later impose fines on the property owners for having exceeded the number of permitted floors. The total amount paid in bribes and fines is often substantially less than the anticipated revenue from the illegal floors.
The current manner of applying rule of law has a destructive effect on the economy and creates a society that does not trust the state’s justice mechanism. The substantial amount allocated in Egypt’s national budget to the development and modernization of infrastructure is completely wasted because the state’s economic platform is structurally corrupt; it simply privileges lawbreakers at the expense of citizens who comply with the rule of law – to the detriment of the economy.
Not only does the non-application of rule of law privilege lawbreakers; its careless application by the government negatively affects ordinary citizens’ lives. Many events, intended to enhance citizens’ pleasure, have concluded in the killing of innocent people. Young people who organize car races at night sometimes run over and kill citizens who happen to be in the vicinity, while other citizens are killed by random bullets fired by lawbreakers at wedding celebrations. If rule of law were functioning properly in the first place, such incidents, and many others, would never occur.
A clear majority of Egyptians are breaking the law in one way or another. Privileged by knowing how to hide from prosecution, citizens who work at entities that are supposed to enforce the law are those who break the law the most. Meanwhile, in the absence of law enforcement, wealthy lawbreakers use their money to build their corrupt empires and to secure them by regularly bribing government officials – leaving only ordinary Egyptians, who don’t have access to corrupt officials, subject to the harsh application of rule of law.
The absence of justice that we are living with in Egypt and the manipulation of rule of law by state authorities have driven a large portion of Egyptian citizens to completely disregard the entire judicial system and to apply their own version of justice – which, sadly, entails committing a variety of illegal acts and, sometimes, even terrorist activity. Applying rule of law fairly and firmly to all citizens is Egypt’s gateway to progress; it will give Egyptians a sense of national belonging, increase our country’s resources and gain the confidence of investors that we so desperately need.