Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky on Sunday slammed the public lynching of two men accused of theft in Egypt’s Gharbiya governorate, describing the incident as a sign of “the death of the state.”
In statements to the Turkish Anadolu news agency on Sunday, the minister condemned the incident in which village residents applied the ‘Haraba penalty’ of Islamic law by beating two men accused of theft and hanging them from a tree until they died.
The ‘Haraba’ penalty in Islamic Law means the execution or crucifixion of anyone who terrorises or kills others in order to steal from them. According to most Muslim clerics, only the state has the authority to apply the penalty.
“The meting out of rough justice on thugs and outlaws, as well blocking roads and highways by citizens, are signs of the state’s death,” said Mekky. He added that the use of force was a government prerogative, stressing that if that right is transferred to the citizenry “then the state is dead.”
“The government that allows this to happen is an unjust government, because it does not afford citizens with adequate protection,” said Mekki.
Angry citizens beat two men accused of abducting two young boys, then stripped them half-naked and hung them from a tree in the village of Sammound in the Gharbiya governorate on Sunday, according to security officials who confirmed that both men had died.
The two men were reportedly dragged in the street and beaten before they were hung from the tree.
The killings come a week after the attorney general’s office encouraged civilians to arrest lawbreakers and hand them over to police.
The incident represents one of the most extreme cases of vigilantism in the two years since Egypt’s 2011 uprising, which have seen a sharp deterioration of public security. The worsening security, coupled with a police strike, prompted the attorney general’s call for citizens’ arrests last week.
Similar attacks have happened elsewhere in Egypt, though vigilante killings remain an infrequent phenomenon. Citizens, however, appear to have grown bolder in taking matters into their own hands since the uprising that ousted long-time president Hosni Mubarak.