(CN) – Citing allegations that they benefitted from the misappropriation of state funds, the European General Court upheld an asset freeze against relatives of former Egyptian President Muhammad Hosni Mubarak.
The Council of the European Union imposed the restrictions for the first time in March 2011, about two months after Egypt was gripped by protests across the country demanding Mubarak’s ouster after years of increasing police brutality.
In addition to losing his office in the revolution, Mubarak was convicted of having been complicit in the murder of protesters. He was initially sentenced to live in prison, but the sentence was overturned and Mubarak along with his sons were later convicted of corruption at a retrial. Egypt’s top appeals court acquitted Mubarak last year, and the 89-year-old is said to be back home in Heliopolis, an upscale district of Cairo, as well as in the seaside resort town of Sharm al-Sheikh.
As part of its policy to support Egypt’s peaceful transition to a democratic government, meanwhile, the Council of the European Union meanwhile adopted its sanctions against the Mubarak family on March 21, 2011.
Based on evidence that Egyptian authorities accused them of misappropriating state funds, the council targeted the assets of Mubarak’s wife, Suzanne Saleh Thabet, as well as their sons and their sons’ wives.
With the asset freeze renewed every year, the Mubarak family applied to the European General Court in Luxembourg for annulment.
Among other points, the family argued that the council’s objective of supporting new authorities in Egypt no longer holds true because Mubarak’s successor, Mohamed Morsi, was thrown out as well in June 2013 after a coup d’etat.
Shooting this argument down, however, the European General Court noted on Nov. 22 that, “contrary to the assumption underlying the applicant’s argument, there is no suggestion … that the policy of support for that process was limited to support for the government that was formed by that leader, and which was the first civilian government to result from elections following the departure of the former president of the republic, Mr. Mubarak, in February 2011.”
“In any event, as indicated in paragraph 55 above, it is not for the court to rule on the question whether that policy continued to be relevant after Mr. Morsi ceased to hold office,” the ruling continues.
“Second, in the light of the purpose of the restrictive measures … those measures must, in principle, be maintained until the conclusion of the judicial proceedings in Egypt in order to ensure their effectiveness. Consequently, their renewal cannot depend on successive changes of government, in the context of the process of political transition which the policy of which Decision 2011/172 forms part is intended to support.”
The ruling from the Fifth Chamber also rejects the Mubarak family’s claim that “the instability of Egyptian politics and the violations of the rule of law and of fundamental rights that have taken place in that context since the events of 2011” undercut support for the sanctions.
“It must be noted in that regard that those documents do not support the conclusion that the political and institutional instability that characterized Egyptian politics after the events of 2011 had the effect of compromising any capacity of the Egyptian judicial system to guarantee respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights, and that the asset freeze imposed by Decision 2011/172 in the context of a policy aimed, in particular, at respect for those principles had therefore become manifestly inappropriate,” the ruling states. “The same applies to the violations of fundamental rights and of the rule of law mentioned in those documents, notably as regards the repression of protesters or political opponents and the restriction of civil liberties.”
Egypt since 2014 has been led by General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who won control in a popular election after Morsi was deposed.