Here we have a country, just through a revolution, a transition in power, holding the sinners of the past accountable for their crimes, no matter how powerful or influential. They are not concerned with healing or looking forward instead of backward. They seek justice. I’m not talking about the United States, obviously. I’m talking about Egypt.

The former president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, and his two sons will be tried for murder in connection with the deaths of protesters during the 18-day revolt that lead to his ouster three months ago as well as corruption during his time in office, Egypt’s top prosecutor said Tuesday.

The announcement fulfilled an important demand of protesters who had called for large-scale demonstrations in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square later this week in favor of a trial and against the country’s emergency law.

Mubarak, and his two sond, will be charged with “intentional murder, attempted killing of some demonstrators” and “misuse of influence and deliberately wasting public funds and unlawfully making private financial gains and profits,” according to the prosecutor. Gamal and Alaa Mubarak were sent to jail in Cairo to await trial, while their father Hosni is under police custody at a hospital in Sharm el Sheik as he recovers from a heart attack. Once recovery is complete, he will be sent to prison before the trial.

There’s a belief among some analysts that the protest movement in Egypt has paid too much attention to retribution of the prior regime, and not enough building democratic institutions in the country. I disagree. I think retribution of this type, also popularly known as the rule of law, is a democratic institution, some would say the most important one. By relentlessly focusing on this issue, the activists are sounding the alarm for anyone in the future who wants to govern Egypt. They must govern legally, or they will face the consequences. I don’t know a better foundation for civil society than that.

Eight hundred Egyptians died in the uprising, and now those who authorized it will be put on trial. This will send a message around the Arab world, including places like Syria, where the death toll in their uprising has passed 1,000. Those crimes will not be forgotten by the people. In fact, when the dictators meet their end – and they will – those crimes will be prosecuted.