Canadians Arrested in Egypt: Where Does the Real Justice Stand?

by clairechaurand on September 10, 2013 - 8:53pm

Two Canadians, a doctor and a filmmaker, were arrested and held in a prison in Cairo, Egypt. The two men were present in downtown Cairo on their way to Gaza to train emergency room doctors and hope to film a documentary about it while violence between the Muslim Brotherhood and security forces was taking place. As they stopped to ask for directions back to their hotel after curfew at a police station that night, they were accused of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood. These men were had a number of false allegations held against them and were imprisoned. They were later forced to stay behind bars for another 15 days while the investigation continued.

This issue touches the ethical principle “do no harm” and greatly the principle value of justice. We must also consider other relative values concerning this matter, such as fairness, rationality, security, freedom, non-interference, and even accountability. These values go for both sides of the situation, the Canadian view as well as the Egyptian view. The author of this news article stands on the Canadian side of this subject. The media portrayed what happened as being preposterous, irrational, and somewhat morally wrong of the Egyptian establishment. They stated that the men were “at the wrong place at the wrong time”. For them, these two men, John Greyson and Tarek Loubani, have done nothing wrong, in other words are completely innocent. The families of these men as well as many other Canadians believe that they have no right to be imprisoned and be accused of such acts, (“belonging to an armed gang”, “threatening security and social peace”, “disabling public transport and communications”, “possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives”), at least not without valid proof. Even further, they should not be held captive for 15 more days as the authorities pursue the investigation, as it would not be fair if they had not committed the crimes. It is irrational and breaches the values of freedom and justice.

To continue, Canadians have heard that these men might also have been subject to physical abuse while imprisoned, which they find to be outrageous. There is no reason for these men to have been tortured, especially if innocent, but then again this value can be viewed as morally relative. It is because of this that Canada must be careful and keep a certain limit or distance to whether or not interfere with Egyptian forces. The Canadian government is still very concerned though, and is keeping a close watch on the situation, hoping to send a doctor to the men through Canada’s ambassador in Egypt. Petitions have also been signed by Canadian citizens and the men’s families have hired lawyers in Cairo to help sort out the issue.

On the other hand, Egyptian authorities firmly believe that serious crime may have been committed. For them, justice is also important, although their view of justice upon this situation is not “freedom” that is deserved like the Canadians see it. They see it that these men need to be captured so as to keep the city safe. Egypt is very concerned about their security and the value of accountability. From their viewpoint, these men might be dangerous. They don’t know that they might be innocent, (and neither do we, there is no proof), so they aren’t taking chances. Imprisonment without charges may be viewed as wrong for us, but for them they may believe that they are taking the right measures of precaution by restraining these men while the investigation goes on.

I stand in favour of the Canadian viewpoint in that I believe these men should not be held captive without concrete evidence that they have done something illegal. It is neither just nor fair to accuse them of committing a crime just because they were at the scene. If these men are eventually charged with these alleged crimes, they authorities should then be allowed to arrest them. To me, that is justice, (one is innocent until proven guilty by law), although I do understand Egypt’s value of security. I just don’t think it’s fair to the accused. I also, for the same reasons, don’t believe in physical abuse, (ethical principle of do no harm).

All of this brings to question one ethical issue: should one be detained even though there are no current charges or proof of them executing illegal actions, even if there is a possibility they might have? Should these men be imprisoned until proven innocent?

 

“Canadians arrested in Egypt during a 'very bloody day'”, CBC.ca, Aug 21, 2013, CBCNews, September 10, 2013, <http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/08/21/egypt-canadians-detained-w....

Comments

Egypt being in an unstable political state, I was intrigued by your title. Like you, I do not believe that the two Canadian men deserved to be imprisoned during those 15 days. From what I read from the article, there was no conclusive evidence of the two men committing the crimes that they were accused of( belonging to an armed gang;threatening security and social peace;disabling public transport and communications;possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives), and thus authorities should have respected their autonomy. However, it is important to note that Egypt is still politically unstable and I think that the arrest was only a precautionary measure, but that does not excuse the use of torture. As you said, doing harm onto others should not be allowed in any circumstance, but the arrest itself was done in the interest of general beneficence. If the two men were to hypothetically be terrorists, would the torture have been justified?

Hello Claire,
I decided to comment on your post because the title immediately caught my attention. Plus, it states the debate you summarized and gives me a brief summary of the situation. However, the reason why I read your article is mainly because it is a touching subject that relates to human rights and false accusations. You also go right to the point with no traditional introduction which gets me directly to the heart of the debate. That being said, I am totally in favour of releasing the Canadians as do you. I think their right should be respected even in an other country especially because they don't have any serious accusations or motive to keep them incarcerated. As I finished reading you article, some questions came to my mind : what does the Canadian government actually do in these cases? Can they do more than send doctors? I think they should be more persistent with the foreign government and really put pressure to get the Canadians back home.

Elizabeth Morin

Hi clairechaurand,
The title of your post is what attracted me to your text because it stated the subject at hand while also revealing the ethical issue. I also enjoyed reading your article because the structure of your text was very organized, making it easier to understand.
Concerning this issue, I am in agreement with your opinion on this matter. I also believe that Egypt should not be imprisoning these two Canadians without having valid proof of the crimes they have committed. According to the article, the two tourists have been accused of being part of the Muslim Brotherhood, including being in possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives, threatening security and social peace and much more. However, when individuals around the world have asked for evidence supporting these accusations, the Egyptian government hasn’t been able to provide any valuable evidence. This situation is going against a basic human right of individual freedom, by imprisoning these Canadians without adequate proof or a proper trial. The values and ethical principles demonstrated in this issue are fairness, individual freedom, justice, do no harm and the golden rule. For the Egyptian government’s side, the values and ethical principles that are looked at are patriotism, security, tradition, the greater good and respect for autonomy. While this issue has many conflicting opinions, it ultimately comes down to whether the two Canadian citizens should be imprisoned without valuable proof or if we should respect the way a country decides to govern its own state, even when it conflicts with our values?