Victims of Corruption and Human Rights Violations are the Rightful Heirs of our Recovered Assets

Press Release

8 September 2014

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights released a research paper Monday titled, “How to Use Our Looted Assets: Best Policies for Managing Recovered Assets.” The objective is to multiply the social and economic benefits of these assets in a way that achieves a measure of justice for those groups most harmed by the corruption. The paper was prepared by Yara Sallam* and Mohamed El-Shiwi, officers working on transitional justice, and Osama Diab, a researcher on anti-corruption and transparency at the EIPR.

The paper proceeds from the EIPR’s conviction that the victims of corrupt, repressive regimes—whether individuals or communities—are most entitled to assets looted by the regime and later reclaimed after its fall. Putting recovered assets back into the state treasury raises three problematic issues: first, the possibility that they will again be lost through channels of corruption; second, making them subject to the state’s current spending preferences means the assets may not reach those most entitled to them; and three, spending these assets for purposes that do not directly support the poor—such as debt service or meeting the budget deficit—misses the opportunity to enhance their socioeconomic benefits while also failing to target those groups most harmed by the years-long rule of the corrupt president.

“Allocating recovered assets for development purposes that support the poor and marginalized and determining the future uses of the assets will help us all to lobby foreign governments where our frozen assets are located to swiftly return them to their rightful owners,” said Osama Diab. “It will also help us urge the Egyptian government to better handle this sensitive issue, which has seen no real successes over the last three and a half years.”

The paper notes the importance of enhancing the positive impacts of recovered assets by investing them as sustainable compensation for the individuals and communities most harmed by the policies of the old regime, instead of simply funneling the assets into the state treasury. If retrieved assets are divided equally among the general citizenry, assuming a population of 90 million that comes to a per capita share of LE11 for each LE1 billion; regardless of the magnitude of the assets recovered, putting them in the public treasury will prevent us from achieving some degree of justice by targeting those harmed more by the corruption than others.

“The importance of recovering stolen assets is that the funds can be used to provide compensation and redress for victims of corruption and neglect by dictatorships, which is a priority in transitional phases,” said Mohamed El-Shiwi.

The research paper aims to explore how other countries have used recovered assets and how, in some cases, local communities were mobilized behind their recovery. In contrast to other countries that have been in similar conditions, the paper also looks at the local context in Egypt, the status of frozen assets and ways to mobilize society to put steady pressure on foreign governments and the Egyptian government until these assets are retrieved for use in programs providing compensation for political, civil, economic and social human rights violations.

In addition to the experiences of other countries, the paper examines the best practices to be pursued international in this situation, spotlighting experiences in Peru, Nigeria and elsewhere, which faced difficulties when looted assets were returned to governments due to the lack of agreement on spending targets, oversight and standards of transparency applied in spending the funds.

To read full paper: Click here


*Yara Sallam, a lawyer and the officer of the Transitional Justice Program at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) has been detained since the 21st of June, 2014. She is currently awaiting trial after being arrested by Egyptian security forces near a protest march in Cairo. An award-winning rights defender, Ms. Sallam has since been in pre-trial detention at Al Qanater Prison near Cairo and the authorities consistently denied all requests for her release. Her first substantial court hearing is scheduled for the 13th of September, 2014. Ms. Sallam has contributed to the writing of this report before her arrest.