Morsy Should End Secrecy, Victims’ Families Have Right to Truth
(New York) – President Mohamed Morsy of Egypt should immediately release the report by a fact-finding committee he created to investigate police and military abuses against protesters from January 2011 to June 2012. The committee submitted its report to the president in December, but the president has not made it public.
The media recently published leaked sections of the report highlighting police use of live gunfire against protesters in Alexandria and Suez, and the military’s role in the use of force against protesters and enforced disappearances. In January 2013, the public prosecutor’s office indicated that it was investigating 14 incidents included in the report.
“Releasing the fact-finding report would be the Egyptian government’s first acknowledgment of two years’ worth of police and military abuses,” said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Victims’ families have the right to know the truth about their loved ones’ deaths. Even if certain information can’t be made public in the interests of justice, all Egyptians need to know what happened.”
Over the past month, the Egyptian daily al Shorouk and the Guardian have published leaked chapters of the report on police violence in Alexandria in January and November 2011, and the use of live ammunition by the police in Suez in January 2011. The chapters also describe the military’s torture of detained protesters in May 2012, which Human Rights Watch documented, and several cases of enforced disappearance by the military in January and February 2011.
President Morsy appointed the committee in July 2012, with one of his first decrees after he took office in June. The fact-finding committee was composed of judges, an assistant public prosecutor, an assistant interior minister, the head of National Security Egyptian General Intelligence Services, human rights lawyers, and relatives of victims.
The committee’s mandate was to gather information and evidence about the killing and injuring of demonstrators between January 25, 2011, and June 30, 2012, and to review the “measures taken by executive branches of government and the extent to which they cooperated with the judicial authorities and any shortcomings that may exist.” The committee said on its website that it had identified 19 separate incidents in which the police or military used excessive force or committed other violations against protesters.
After it submitted its report in late December, Morsy forwarded it to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor appointed an investigative team of 20 prosecutors, whose spokesman said on January 21 that the committee had revealed “14 new incidents” that prosecutors were investigating in “absolute secrecy.” But neither the prosecutor nor the investigative team has made any further announcements.
A source at the president's office told theGuardian that Morsy had not seen the findings and that “as soon as results appear, they will be made public. The findings you mentioned are speculative, and not authentic. We haven't received the findings from the [fact-finding] committee, and the investigations are still ongoing.”
Two years after the January 2011 uprising in Egypt, those responsible for the killing of at least 846 protesters and subsequent police and military abuses, including the excessive use of force against protesters, are largely at liberty. Only 4 of the 36 trials of middle-ranking and low-level police officers accused of killing protesters near police stations during that period have resulted in prison sentences. Other convictions have been suspended or imposed in absentia, with only two police officers serving prison time.
Ineffective investigations, security agency obstruction, and laws that give overly broad discretion to the police in using live gunfire have meant that the police are still using excessive and unnecessary force in policing, Human Rights Watch said. In January, the police response to an attack on a prison in Port Said resulted in three days of violence that left 48 dead.
With the retrial of the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, and his former interior minister and other police officials scheduled to begin on April 13, accountability for serious human rights violations should be a key priority for the government, Human Rights Watch said.
“More than two years after the uprising, we are seeing new cases of police torture and excessive force in policing protests,” Houry said. “Without accountability and the political will for serious security reform, there can be little hope of ending the abuse.”