Not Guilty: Egypt’s Ferry Disaster

Date posted: July 30, 2008

On February 3, 2006 Al-Salam ferry sank in the middle of the Red Sea killing more than 1,000 people who were coming to Safaga, Egypt from Saudi Arabia. The passengers were mainly Egyptian workers in Saudi Arabia, who were returning home on vacation or who were bringing their savings home to retire in their homeland. The Egyptian criminal court has found the owner of a Red Sea ferry and four others not guilty of manslaughter. The families of the victims as well as Egyptian bloggers were shocked and angered. Wandering Scarab, in "The Dreaded Ferry" wrote:


I can't say that I'm shocked by the verdict in the Al-Salam 98 ferry case. It's to be expected from a totalitarian government that allows corruption to run rampant in all aspects of it's departments, including the justice system. This is the same justice system that repeatedly lets off the hook members of Egypt's political elite, one of which happened to be the owner of the Al-Salam ferry, Mamdouh Ismail and his son, Amr. Although they were suspected of negligence, the Egyptian courts failed to issue a ruling to stop them from fleeing the country. Two weeks after the ferry sank, Ismail and his son left for London, and the case went to court and they were tried in absentia and found innocent last week. The video above is in Arabic, but anyone with half a brain can see the reaction of the victims' families and how distressing and unfair they found the latest verdict. I'm disgusted that no one was found guilty, despite evidence that proved otherwise, except for the captain of another ferry who received 6 months jail and a 10,000 Egyptian pound fine, which translates to roughly $2000 US. Both, the CNN (in Arabic) and BBC (in English), have published articles about the incident and the verdict. It seems that the charges brought against Mamdouh Ismail and his son were limited to their resistance to report the incident immediately and so by waiting it's reasonable to assume that they indirectly caused the death of many survivors who could not be rescued in time.

Wandering Scarab holds Mamdouh Ismail fully responsible and says:

Mamdouh Ismail is the one who stands to gain the most profit as a result of his company's commercial service. Ultimately, he is legally responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of all equipment and boats belonging to his company and in turn is responsible for the safety of passengers. He should be tried and convicted (in my opinion) for knowingly allowing the use of unfit equipment which consequently caused the death of over 1000 people when it malfunctioned, regardless of what caused the malfunction. In other words, he knew that his boats failed to meet the minimum safety standards, were not equipped with the means to put out a fire, and did not even have enough lifeboats. The bottom line is, he knew that in the event of a malfunction, the boat will most likely not be able to stay afloat and will cause loss of life. That is the definition of negligence.

At the end of her post, the infuriated blogger laments the fact that:

It's become internationally known that Egyptians don't care much about human life. People in Egypt are killing each other over bread, which the government claims is subsidized but does nothing to ensure that it is sold at the subsidized rate. The value of a human being's life in that part of the world is almost non-existent. But to insult the families of the victims by applying a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds? Who or what is this fine for? Is that what an Egyptian's life worth today? The number of people who died aboard the dreaded ferry is 1034. If you do the math, the end result is 9.67 Egyptian pounds per victim, which is less than 2 American dollars.

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