Impunity

I took over from Issandr this week to pen a post for the New York Times' Latitude blog about the so far unreleased (but now partly leaked) fact-finding report into the deaths and abuses of protesters, ordered -- but so far buried -- by President Morsi.

Last week, the British paper The Guardian published leaked chapters and several articles about the report that was written -- but not released -- by the fact-finding committee President Morsi created in July 2012 to investigate killing and injuring of protesters from the time of the revolution until his assumption of office (although in fact the committee appears to have focused on the revolutionary and early post-revolutionary period only). The Egyptian newspaper El Shorouk had already been reporting on the committee’s findings for several moths. Nour The Intern has heroically waded into these leaks and their coverage, to try to give us a sense of what has emerged from the committee’s work so far. Read it all after the jump. 

An interview with former fact-finding committee members complaining of the limitations of their authority and purview: 

  • According to former committee members, the committee was not allowed to investigate the prison breakouts or the burning of police stations in 2011. When the committee members asked for permission to dig deeper, they were told that “(the authorities) were content with the result of the old investigations.” It’s worth noting that El Shorouk published this tidbit from the old investigations into the prison breaks by the public prosecution, which alleged that they found “that Hamas and Hezbollah had a hand in the (2011) prison breaks" to get "their colleagues” (meaning MB leaders) out of prison.
  • During the committee’s first meeting with former Public Prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmoud,  he actually asked the victims' families to "bring (him) evidence."
  • The former committee members complained that the committee was not given authority over state institutions or the proper tools (security details, access to documents, etc) to investigate and collect whatever was left of the evidence, much of which had already been destroyed. 
  • Presumably to make up for the committee’s lack of authority, it included representatives from the Public Prosecution, the MOI, National Security and General Intelligence (it also included a human rights lawyer, a martyr’s family member, a judge and lawyer etc). However, these government agents’ authorities were temporarily revoked in order to join the committee as “fact-finder”, which defeated the supposed purpose of their membership.
  • According to the ex-members, these agents, particularly the MOI and the General Intelligence’s, were more chaperones than helpers.
  • The military officials in the committee, on the other hand, were worse than the MOI, according to Yasser Al-Sayed Ahmed, a committee member, who accused them of “withholding information.” Despite having documented information about the early days of the revolutions, they have kept it and have not given them over to the investigating authorities, he said.
  • The MOI used tear gas ordered in 2002 and expired in 2006. 
  • Thanks to an "encrypted channel," Mubarak was kept up-to-date on everything that happened in Tahrir, which is why committee member Mohsen Behnasi is accusing Anes al-Fekki, the ex-information minister, of obstructing justice and withholding information that are vital to the investigation. He insists that al-Fekki launched the channel for Mubarak and kept a record of everything that was broadcasted on it.
  • Former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli said that the MOI gave out its orders on paper. Each officer got a handwritten order on paper addressing him by name, telling him where to go and what to do. 
  • The committee also discovered that there were attempts to kidnap injured/near death protesters from the hospital by police officers. They also allegedly removed bodies before the deaths (and causes of death) could be documented. Behnasi said that this is was main reason why no death certificates were made for some victims -- their bodies were missing or they were simply buried without a proper examination.
  • The fear of getting arrested or kidnapped in the hospital led many of the injured to seek medical treatment elsewhere, away from governmental hospitals. The injured then refused to give their information fearing that the detectives will somehow managed to track them down.
  • 3/18/2013 El Shorouk: Meanwhile, police officers were caught with large amounts of weapons, belonging  to the station, without permission, months after the 18 days. This article says that a considerable number of officers have been identified by their colleagues when they were confronted with videos of them shooting or beating protesters.
  • On Jan 29, 2011 in Suez, the Armed Forces ordered two officers to go back to the abandoned prison and free the prisoners.
  • Report says that the tear gas, rubber bullets and weapons for law enforcement were delivered by lorries, which were to head to the conflict zones, park far away and wait to be unloaded by the officers. 
  • Also according to El Shorouk, the few officers who were interviewed said that while they were sent these weapons, they never received them because the lorries were parked so far away from clashes; yet the protesters somehow found the trucks, looted them and then used the guns to shoot each other. 
  • The report also states that the MOI and Suez Security Directorate orders were to deal with the protests as riots. They all assigned armed officers to identify and isolate gathering points and disperse the people by all means necessary. Orders also included increasing the number of covert, civilian-clothed officers to infiltrate the protests and make sure they didn't get out of hand. 
  • 3/15/2013 El Shorouk
  • Morsi received the final report of the fact-finding committee he formed to investigate the killing of protesters  on 2nd of January, 2013.
  • The only decision he made regarding the report came out a week later. He decided to create a “Revolutionary Prosecution” using the “Revolution Protection” law he introduced in the constitutional declaration. 
  • Both the declaration and the laws it contained were strictly meant for the transitional period, which Morsi declared over after the approval of the constitution, says lawyer and former committee member Yasser Sayid Ahmed.

 An article in Al Masry Al Youm, not about the fact-finding committee but about the public prosecution’s investigation into 14 cases of killing demonstrators. 

  • Al Masry Al Youm, 5th of March: This is not the fact-finding committee's work though, just the prosecution. The former is investigating 14 main cases, so they cross path sometimes.
  1. When they checked the Tora prison and security forces' camps, they didn't find any of the detainees, but they did find some of their names in the camps’ records.
  2. The MOI's officers that faced the protesters during these events admitted to arresting large numbers of them and transporting them to camps, but claim not to know or be responsible for whatever happened to them there. Their orders were to transport them only.
  3. The prosecution was not notified of many of these arrests when they happened. Though sometimes, they were notified 4-6 days after the arrest was made. Meaning that many protesters were detained but not charged with anything.

According to the statements of protesters, the police followed the same strategy with everyone, which was:

  1. Arrest and assault a person in Tahrir, Abdel Monem Riyad Square or the Corniche. If near the Nile, throw them in it.
  2. Once down, throw them into a truck with everyone else you've arrested and assaulted, and close the windows - mostly so they wouldn't know where you are taking them, partly so they would suffocate (a wish the policer officers felt free to express out loud).
  3. Once there, strip the detainees down to their underwear, beat them senseless, and pace yourself with "Who is paying you to ruin your country?" questions.
  4. Then leave the almost-naked detainees in a small room with no food or water for 3 days.
  1. Officers meanwhile maintained that the protesters were violent and bordering on vandalism, which is why they arrested them, non-violently. Their job was to transport them only; they don’t know what happened to the prisoners after they reached their destination. No one personally saw any transgressions, and thus couldn’t be questioned about it. 

Here is a selection of some of the testimonies given to the fact-finding committee, according to the leaks:

  • The committee received a fax from the mother of Mohamed Hassan Ali Mohamed confirming that her son has been missing since Jan 25, 2012, ever since he went out to celebrate the anniversary of the revolution. He was last seen in front of Maspero. “The next day Mohamed called me and told me not to search for him because I won’t be able to find him. I asked him where he was, he replied saying  “Where am I? I swear I don’t know where I am.” I later called the same number, but someone else answered and told not to call it again. Then the general prosecution sent me a paper saying Mohamed is wanted as a witness.
  • “On the 7th of May, 2012, I went to the General Attorney and told him that Mohamed is missing. I asked an employee that was working on a computer and he told me that Mohamed was sentenced a year and half in military prison, so I went to the military prison and asked about him but I didn’t find him. On my way out of prison, I got on one of the military trucks with an officer who told me ‘the prison is full of lawyers, human rights lawyers and students who were arrested.”’
  • Tawfiq Mohammed Aglan’s mother told the committee that her son went to Tahrir on January 28 and never came home. Eighteen days later, on February 11, he sent his uncle a text message: “Call me.” His mother called him three time and on the fourth call he answered and said: “Yes, mother, it’s me Mohammad” -- then the line dropped. That was the last time she heard his voice. Later that night an unknown man answered the phone and swore at Mohammad’s mother; four months later a man answered Mohammad’s number and said he had obtained the phone from his brother, a soldier, who had found it in the Gabal Ahmar riot police camp, where protesters were detained during the revolution. 
  • The report also says that some of those burials were ordered by the general prosecution without even trying to identify the victims.
  • Witness Kareem al-Ghirbali, friend of the martyr Osama, said that the latter was fluent in English and so was surrounded by foreign reporters, to whom he instantly translated the chants and slogans of the protesters in Tahrir. Osama was kidnapped by a group of people in civilian clothing, detained in the basement of the Egyptian museum for the night and then sent to a military prison. According to the report written on 5th of March, 2011, Osama's autopsy (which was conducted several days after his death) says he died having suffered a sharp drop in blood circulation and respiration, brought on by a brain hemorrhage caused by traumatic injuries. 
  • Zakia, mother of Hassan, a husband and a father of  three, who has been missing since the 29th of Jan. 2011. He went out at 7 pm with nothing but 10 pounds and his national ID. He's uneducated, she says, and he doesn't have a cellphone. She filed many reports the al-Haram police department, went to Wadi El Natron prison, Wadi El Gedeed, the military base and prison at the Hikestep, in addition to military police, Zeinhom morgue and hospitals. 
  • Witness Hassan Shata said he spotted 15 CSF trucks with men in civilian clothing coming out of them. The men mixed with the crowds during friday prayers and attack the CSF, who then responded by beating the protesters. Also include the statement of Samir al-Sayed, father of Amira al-Sayed, a woman who was shot by police officers for videotaped them standing on the roof of al-Raml police station shooting protesters. Amira’s father says he was offered a check for 3 million pounds, to share with the families of other martyrs, by Captain Ahmed Khamees al-Sorogi.

Reactions:

  • Nothing for the most part. The public nodded thoughtfully at the few newspapers, other than El Shorouk (which has been publishing what is probably the same report leaked to the Guardian in installments since January 2013), who mentioned the report.
  • The Guardian’s reports stirred up some, but not much, controversy in newspapers and on TV, but it was mostly dismissed as “sensationalized” for accusing the military leadership outright rather than the individual soldiers who have supposedly committed these crimes. The military quickly denounced the report, considering it a foreign smear campaign SCAF leaders, which will not be tolerated.
  • For its part, the presidency has done nothing and said less.