The Hosni Disaster

The verdict against Hosni Mubarak, along with the protests that continue right now, are a death blow to resolving Syria’s conflict

Over the weekend gripping news jumped out from Egypt - Hosni Mubarak and his Interior Minister have been given life sentences in prison for their part in the killing of protestors last year. With this, Mubarak becomes the only former ruler to be convicted of his crimes since the Arab Spring began.

Almost immediately, Tahrir Square was flooded with protestors anew. The crowd was apparently furious for the acquittals of key security officials who were on trial with Mubarak. The BBC now says “a verdict that was meant to bring closure for Egypt is in danger of reopening old wounds.”

But I believe the decision could not have come at a worse time for the north-eastern neighbour that has been trying to cope with merciless killing for 15 months.

Indeed the greatest wound the verdict has inflicted is to any hope of resolving Syria’s conflict.

For your consideration

President Assad can now see that, despite the fact that Hosni Mubarak stepped down in far more peaceful circumstances than him, the ex-President was still tried and persecuted by the military government. A life sentence sounds grim for anybody, let alone someone used to getting his way. The bigger disaster – many Egyptians are still not happy, claiming that the decision mocks them and they have been denied real justice.

What is real justice? Some might say it should have been that everyone associated with the previous regime be jailed. That is fairness, albeit extreme.

But others might be vindicating a death sentence for Mubarak. And Assad and the Syrian Government will be watching all of this with keen eyes.

Make no mistake

The Syrian Government, unlike what pro-democratic western-stylised news media would like to admit, is not a “regime.” It only started being called a regime after the Arab Spring, a term that would associate Assad with Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi.

This is a minority government with oft-totalitarian control over its country. But it is not based around one man.

Syria is not a “revolution.” It is civil war. Saying Syria is not in civil war is like saying Rwanda does not fit the definition of genocide.

Bashar Al-Assad and his government are Alawite – the Shia Islam minority in a predominately Sunni State. Their supporters fear regime change for it could mark the beginning of persecution for the Alawite minority. Both the government and the rebels have equal support, domestically and internationally, to the point of a stalemate. This confrontation is more complex than our previous war-torn revolution of Libya.

And Assad knows what happened to the last leader of Libya.

Catch-22

Assad now realises that stepping down will not quench people’s thirst for vengeance. Even if he steps down, he and his family can be liable for prosecution and perennial threat of assassination. What’s more, any prospect of negotiation with the international community looks far from promising.

Asked if Assad should be allowed to leave power in exchange for safe haven, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said international leaders seeking peace may be drawn to "politically expedient solutions which may involve amnesty or undertakings not to prosecute.'' But then said it would be wrong under international law.

"You cannot have amnesty for very serious crimes,'' she told The Associated Press, "So my message is very clear - there has to be accountability."

This is a foolish opinion to have, especially after the Houla massacre placed the loss of life so gruesomely at the forefront of people’s minds. If amnesty to Assad will stop the killing, I for one am all for giving him a free ticket to heaven.

But here, I think I am the minority.

Bashar Al-Assad has a choice to make. Either step down and be most likely prosecuted - or don’t step down, try and win the war and escape liability. I think war sounds like the better option. So sit tight friends, because Bashar Al-Assad and the civil war aren’t going anywhere. Not because he doesn’t want to – but because we have given him no other option.

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