After meeting with Fact-Finding Commission for the events of June 30th: Rights groups urge the Commission to expand its mandate and seek technical support from the UN

Wednesday 19 February 2014

The undersigned organizations welcomed the invitation to attend an open dialogue with the 30 June Fact-Finding Commission, affirming the crucial role of independent rights organizations in exposing facts surrounding the human rights violations  committed during the past period. However, the organizations note that they have not received any clear answers to many of the questions they raised during the meeting, and some questions were left unanswered.

The undersigned organizations raised several questions and concerns about the decree creating the Commission, many of which could still be rectified.  Most significantly, there is no provision obligating the Commission to make its findings public, which was one of the main problems with the work of previous commissions. In addition, it is not clear what authority the Commission possesses to obtain evidence and facts from government and security bodies, officials and individuals, to access relevant files and documents, to summon individuals to appear before it, to examine sites in question or to meet with witnesses in confidentiality without interference or harassment. Finally, no official mechanism exists to monitor the Commission’s work, at a time when the accuracy and impartiality of the media are questionable.

The organizations have raised legitimate concerns about the independence and neutrality of the commission, particularly since it lacks credibility and trust among a broad sector of  victims. They also pointed out that a basic condition for the work of fact-finding commissions is an end to the abuses they are established to investigate, which is not the case. This casts doubt on the political will to take the work of the Commission seriously and the extent to which state agencies will cooperation with the Commission.

The undersigned organizations have also stressed the need for the commission to seek technical support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), an independent, international institution with extensive experience in the field. The organizations asked whether the Commission would meet with the OHCHR delegation currently on an official visit to Egypt, but received no response.

The Commission emphasized that pursuant to the decree establishing it, it could not release its final report to the public and that it could only submit the report to the president, who has the sole authority of releasing the report. It also affirmed that it operates with autonomy and neutrality and that it is independent from the authority that created it.

During the meeting, the organizations referred to several problems that affected the reports of previous fact-finding commissions due to the non-disclosure of their findings, noting that in many cases related to the 25 January revolution, the courts did not admit these reports as evidence. The organizations also referred to the disappointing  decision by the current public prosecutor to end the mandate of several judges from the public prosecutor’s technical office assigned to review these reports and present legal briefs based on their findings. The organizations pointed out that this team submitted an extremely important brief related to the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak and his interior minister and his deputies.

The undersigned organizations made other recommendations they deemed necessary to facilitate the Commission’s work and avoid the aforementioned problems. The Commission should affirm the principles of transparency and participation in its operations and to make public the incidents and issues it is examining on its official website, not only through press statements. The commission should clarify the files that fall within its mandate, and how individuals can come forward to testify and it should regularly post updates on its work on its website. The organizations also recommended that the Commission’s work include cases of incitement to violence and hate speech, taking into consideration the distinction between incitement and freedom of expression, to examine the relationship between incitement to crimes and events following 30 June.

The undersigned organizations asked the commission to include a gender perspective in all the issues it examines, considering events that impacted women specifically after 30 June and to include incidents of sexual violence and gender-based violence into the scope of its inquiry.

At the outset of the meeting, members of the commission stated that they were currently working to prepare a bill for the protection of witnesses and whistleblowers. While this is an important step, it should be completed as soon as possible, and it was hoped that the law would be completed before the commission begins holding hearings. Finally, the organizations urged the commission to include in its final report a vision for transitional justice that contains recommendations for clear, specific legislative and institutional reforms to prevent these crimes in the future and the impunity for their perpetrators. Recommendations for the reform and restructuring of the security sector should also be included.

While the undersigned organizations regret that they have not received clear responses to many of the crucial questions raised during the meeting, they stress their commitment to offer any support possible to help the commission accomplish its tasks and its aspiration to develop a mechanism for serious, regular dialogue with civil society in the various phases of its work.

 

Signatory organizations

  • National Community for Human Rights and Law
  • Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  • Warakom Beltaqrir
  • Nazra for Feminist Studies