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Egypt revolt fact-finding report is a mystery

Families of rebels who died in Egypt's 2011 revolution are still waiting for an overdue report from a special committee.

Last Modified: 11 May 2013 09:17
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Cairo, Egypt - A special prosecution team investigating the findings of a committee established by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to look into the revolution’s violence has between six to eight months since they received the report in January to conclude their investigations, a prosecution official said.

"I believe that is the time-frame that was set … although it is possible some investigations could take longer," Attorney General Mostafa Hosseiny told Al Jazeera in an interview.

The fact-finding committee was drawn by Morsi whose campaign promises included delivering justice to the families of those who were killed and injured during the 18-day uprising in 2011.

More than 800 people were killed and some 6,000 others injured in the revolution that removed former President Hosni Mubarak. But more than two years later, almost no one has been punished for the violence.

Mubarak and his interior minister, who are currently facing a re-trial, were initially sentenced for failing to prevent the killings – but not for ordering them. Six police generals who served as the interior minister’s aides were all acquitted.

According to Human Rights Watch, just four of the 36 trials of middle- and low- ranking policemen implicated in the violence have resulted in prison sentences, with only two police officers actually serving time.

Lack of resources

Legal activists have long complained that all the revolution-related trials have been poorly prosecuted, with insufficient evidence resulting in mass acquittals. It’s the outcome, critics say, of alleged complicity from security agencies whose investigations were apparently shoddy.

The fact-finding committee report, however, is said to contain new evidence that could finally implicate the police as well as Mubarak and members of his regime. It was handed to the president in January but was never made public - once again raising suspicions over the course of justice being derailed.

The President decided to shroud the report in secrecy. That, in itself, opened the door for speculation. Will the report be buried? Will it be used for political bargaining between rival powers?

Amira Qotb, activist

"The President decided to shroud the report in secrecy. That, in itself, opened the door for speculation. Will the report be buried? Will it be used for political bargaining between rival powers?" said Amira Qotb of the "Where is the Report?" campaign.

The campaign is made up of some 20 lawyers and activists and includes four members of the fact-finding committee. They have been advocating for more transparency in dealing with the report as a resource belonging to the public.

Al Jazeera reached out to the presidency to inquire why President Morsi did not announce the findings (The results of a previous fact-finding report were announced in a widely-publicised press conference in April 2011 under military rule). Instead of an interview, a written statement was provided saying "the president wanted to ensure that neither the course of the investigation nor the outcome is politicised".

"The Presidency has not received a copy (of the report), precisely to avert any allegations of a political cover up," the statement added.

When the fact-finding committee concluded its report, Morsi asked them to submit the report to the Prosecutor General.

Special prosecutor

A special prosecution team was drawn to investigate the findings. Its head turned down repeated requests to be interviewed, saying he could not discuss the report.

After reaching out to several prosecution officials, Attorney General Mostafa Hosseiny provided few details and an explanation for the secrecy.

"We do not declare the content of investigations to the public until they are over. We are obligated by law to keep that confidential," he said.

He also revealed the previously unknown six to eight months deadline the special prosecution team has to conclude their work on the report.

Hosseiny confirmed that the investigations have gleaned new evidence and that the first case where this will be declared is the re-trial of Hosni Mubarak.

"The new fact-finding report presented new witnesses and new technical evidence, completely new things such as forensic reports and CDs showing footage … . This will strengthen the prosecutors case against the defendants," he said.

The campaign "Where is the Report?" says these findings can be released with redacted sections to protect witnesses and not affect the proceedings of trials, while at the same time maintaining the public’s right to know.

The report covered several rounds of violence from the beginning of the revolution on January 25, 2011 and all the way to Morsi’s swearing-in on the June 30, 2012, which would include violations committed during the 16 months the country was ruled by the military council.

If substantiated through investigations, it would mean the possibility of new trials over some of the worst abuses said to have been committed by army soldiers, such as forced virginity tests on detained female protesters.

"We are not concerned about the outcome of the investigations. Whoever ends up being incriminated, irrespective of their position, there is no room for preferential treatment," Hosseiny said, shrugging allegations that officials were being protective of the military and police.

Media outlets have leaked parts of the report over the past few months implicating both the police and the military. Britain’s The Guardian newspaper said parts of the report it obtained described the military’s torture of detainees and its involvement in forced disappearances.

Both the defense minister and President Morsi dismissed the allegations, warning against slandering the military.

Follow spotlight coverage of the struggling young democracy

Hosseiny described the leaks as "inappropriate" and said they were "inaccurate".

"I think people should be patient and not make forgone conclusions about issues that are still under investigation. In the right time, every case will be made public one at a time as investigations are done," he added.

Addressing impunity

But local and international rights groups say it’s not all about the legal course.

Human Rights Watch urged Morsi to release the report, saying it would be "the first acknowledgment of two years’ worth of police and military abuses," something, the group said, that would help address rampant impunity.

The Egyptian campaign "Where’s the Report?" also accuses the president of ignoring what they say is a crucial part of the report that lists several recommendations complementing the legal proceedings.

"The fact-finding report urges the President to reform the police, propose a transitional justice bill, and address the trials of civilians in military courts. That aspect of the report has been completely ignored," Qotb said.

The group sent an official letter to President Morsi last month about these recommendations, but they never heard back.

"This backs the assumption that he does not have the political will. The ruling group does not care about its image in front of the public as much as it cares about tightening its grip over the country.. something he (the president) cannot do without controlling two establishments - the police and the army. And when he has a report implicating members of both, then he has a pressure card that enables him to control them," Qotb said.

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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