Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Understanding the law | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Amidst these choppy waters, as the events of the great Arab Spring unfold, along with the revolutions which gave birth to the long-awaited demands of freedom and dignity, comes an important matter regarding the tangible benefits of what is happening, and whether the Arab citizen will witness any positive change resulting from the latest developments. This is a legitimate and important question.

It seems that the direct answer to this question depends on how the law, as a system of values and principles, will be enforced in the future. The law is a word which has been exploited by some regimes, and portrayed as an ever-existing pillar in their ruling structure. Such regimes would raise empty, ridiculous slogans for political consumption and media abuse, claiming that the rule of law is above any other consideration.

Of course this (wretched) law served as a mop for regimes to wipe up their mistakes and justify catastrophes. The law was used for purposes and aims which transformed it into a laughing stock, and a disgraceful, pathetic, government instrument. Hence the judiciary, justice and the legal profession became meaningless and valueless terms; mere empty slogans and vague words.

Today there are popular calls to establish law and order, and to fully enforce them impartiality, without choices or selections based on interests, benefits, discrimination or partisanship. There is the Qanuun, an ancient stringed musical instrument, and there is the qanuun [Arabic word for law] which is taught in universities, and is currently just a list of regulations on paper with no actual value. But it seems that the law is on the threshold of a major transformation in quality today, as a result of the widespread popular anger which has surfaced after years of waiting and anticipation.

There is a new logical “assumption” that laws should emanate from public interest, and that enforcing those laws should reflect the public interest. The criteria for judging such laws should be people’s satisfaction, belief and conviction that such regulations are actually being implemented in reality.

Some Arab government lost their credibility and prestige in the eyes of their citizens, who had pinned high hopes on them and entertained great aspirations in the belief that such governments would be their true voice and means of enacting and legislating what serves the general interest.

Unfortunately, those citizens discovered that their governments had turned into powerful instruments exercising authoritarianism, and engaging in sideline battles and futile Byzantine controversies, which were not the “core of the issue” and not on the priority list.

Perhaps the biggest benefit to come from what is happening in our region is that a new relation shall be forged between the ruler and the ruled, based on the impartiality of the law; a law that is not ambiguous in the least and not open to ludicrous interpretations employed to twist texts and bend the law in a crude and outrageous manner, only for the purpose of selfish gains, and the protection of influential people and their supporters and followers.

The legal establishment in a state is the solemn covenant which enshrines the social contract between the people and the governing establishment. Under the terms of this contract, individual desires, high emotions, and the personalization of matters are to be eliminated and replaced by pure justice.

This may seem to be something of an ideal, but it is not far from reality. Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden and Canada are not entities which live on remote galaxies or planets. They are countries where the population makes and enacts laws through parliaments, then monitors such parliaments’ performance, and the manner in which they enforce the law. It is a continual process of development and self-assessment.

The enforcement of the law and the restoration of its prestige ought to be the grand prize and tangible benefit from the great uprising we are currently witnessing. We need a law that guarantees and protects freedom of speech; a law that guarantees to deal with corrupt figures and punishing them; and a law that secures the dignity of the citizen and safeguards it. Anything other will cause further chaos, futility and time-wasting. I am certain that the Arab Spring has come; things will never be the same again.