The police and prosecution – from trial lawyers to the Justice Ministry – are holdovers from the Mubarak regime, and critics have called their investigations of former regime officials half-hearted. In some cases, the institutions bringing the case may be implicit in crimes they are investigating.
The cases being brought to trial are not comprehensive and far-reaching indictments of the Mubarak era, but instead focus on certain instances of corruption and killing.
And outside the courtroom, little progress has been made on other aspects of transitional justice, such as uncovering the truth, reparations for victims, and institutional reform.
“The police who are collecting evidence were appointed by Mubarak. The prosecution was fully penetrated by state security, and was involved in settling accounts with Mubarak opponents. Some judges complain that the files sent to them are almost empty," says Bahey el Din Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). "And most of these people are on trial just because of what they did in five days. But what about 30 years? What about 30 years of oppression, torture, disappearances, killing by torture? What about that?”
Whether state institutions are willing or able to bring a damning case against their former boss and his cronies is a key question. Judge Zaghloul El Belshi, deputy head of Egypt’s Court of Cassation, said it will be a difficult task.
“These cases require special investigative committees formed by very high-caliber judges,” he said at an event on transitional justice organized by CIHRS. Such committees have not been formed. “All the investigations have been tampered with by members of the old regime.”