The Executive Summary Of The Fact-Finding Commission's Report: Falls Short Of Expectations
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) welcomes the publication of some of the findings and recommendations of the Fact-Finding Commission for the events of June 30, and calls on the government to create a follow-up mechanism to implement its recommendations including instituting necessary legal and institutional reforms to guarantee non-repetition of gross human rights violations. In particular, EIPR welcomes the Commission's recommendations to review the protest law (107 of 2013) to uphold the right to peaceful assembly, and to limit the use of pretrial detention.
Despite some positive steps, EIPR remains concerned about several shortcomings in the findings, mandate and recommendations of the Commission.
Last week, the Fact Finding Commission, created by presidential decree in December, 2013, has issued an executive summary of its report on crimes committed in the wake of the June 30, 2013, events. While the Commission's mandate did not explicitly stipulate for its findings to be made public, EIPR believes that it is crucial for the entire report to be shared publicly in order to guarantee victims' and society's right to truth. During the press conference, the Commission's General Secretary said that the full report could not be made public to protect witnesses. Such a consideration could be accommodated by concealing sensitive information and witness identities, while still releasing more comprehensive findings than those provided in the executive summary. Releasing only the executive summary casts a shadow of doubt over the transparency and credibility of the process and substance of the report.
The Commission's executive summary of the report on issues such as “violence in universities” and “Sinai” contained very little substantive information, further highlighting the need to issue the report in its entirety.
EIPR had welcomed the creation of the Commission, but criticized a number of flaws in its mandate. For instance, the mandate failed to establish enforcement and accountability mechanisms to make it binding for state institutions to cooperate with the Commission. Neither did the mandate specify whether the Commission has the powers of subpoena, search and seizure. The decree also failed to indicate which human rights abuses fell under its mandate and the time-frame covered by its investigations.
The Commission’s investigation was further hindered by limited access to major stakeholders and victims of human rights abuses in the aftermath of the June 30 events. In its executive summary, the Commission complained of poor cooperation of Muslim Brotherhood members, and to have suffered from the reluctance of victims of human rights violations to testify for fear of retribution. Moreover, the Commission couldn’t carry out sufficient field work in the restive Sinai region due to security concerns. EIPR and other human rights organizations had urged the Commission to make more effort to reach out to victims and other stakeholders across the political spectrum, and to work transparently, warning that failure to do so could undermine the impartiality and neutrality of its work.
EIPR met with the Commission on a number of occasions sharing findings, concerns and recommendations and submitted a comprehensive 113 page report on the organization's own fact-finding into the violence which engulfed Egypt during and in the aftermath of the “June 30 events”. Based on the released executive summary, it appears the Commission did not consider most of EIPR's findings recommendations.
Use of excessive lethal force in dispersing protests:
The Fact-Finding Commission placed the primary blame for the heavy casualty toll during the dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in and other political violence in the summer of 2013 on the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood and the protesters themselves. For Rabaa al-Adawiya, the bloodiest incident investigated, the Commission concluded that security forces had used graduated force and were compelled to use lethal force only in response to the use of firearms by some protesters. The report argued that security forces had taken sufficient steps to minimize casualties and provide a safe exit to protesters. The Commission only faulted the security forces with not targeting armed elements within the protest efficiently, therefore increasing casualties. However, it also blamed unarmed protesters for insisting to remain at the site of the violence and serving as “human shields” for those using violence.
EIPR's own investigation and witness testimonies it gathered concluded that security forces used excessive lethal force, showed a blatant disregard to the right to life, and failed most of the time to provide a safe exit to protesters. Evidence collected by EIPR suggested that some protesters were killed while fleeing and that security forces consistently resorted to the use of lethal force when it was not strictly necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury. Even though the Commission's report indicated that 8 members of the security forces were killed during the dispersal compared to 607 civilians according to the Commission's findings, it maintained that the use of lethal force by security forces was legal and proportionate to the risk posed.
The Commission reached similar conclusions on other instances of violence. For the Republican Guard Club incident, which led to the killing of two members of the security forces and 59 “individuals” according to the Commission's report, the blame was also placed on protesters for “attacking” a military facility and using violence including Molotov cocktails and firearms - thereby compelling security forces to respond with the use of firearms.
In its recommendations, the Commission failed to call on the relevant judicial authorities to ensure full, independent and impartial investigations into all instances of violence drawing from the findings of its report, and to call for those responsible to be held to account. Neither did it call to review and amend all legislation regulating the use of force and firearms by security forces, or for the establishment of oversight mechanisms to investigate allegations of serious police abuses as recommended by EIPR in its communications to the Commission. While remaining silent on the use of live ammunition, the Commission did recommend to review the use of “shotguns”. Most other recommendations related to the security forces revolved around the need for capacity-building and appropriate training including on human rights standards.
The Commission's executive summary provides little analytical or detailed information on the alarming wave of sectarian attacks in the wake of the dispersals of Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda sit-ins on August 14, 2013, “by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters”, according to the summary. The Commission states that it had documented the complete destruction and arson of 52 churches, attacks on 12 additional ones, as well as widespread destruction of Christian owned property. The report also points to 29 deaths in the context of sectarian violence without providing details on the time-frame or circumstances of the killings. While the Commission points to the rise of sectarian inflammatory rhetoric and incitement against Christians by prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders and supporters within the “legitimacy alliance” - also documented by the EIPR - the Commission is silent on the failure of the security forces to intervene to prevent or stop the violence.
In its recommendations, the Commission calls for the prohibition of discrimination, for legal amendments to allow for the building of churches as per 2014 Constitution and for awareness raising against hate speech. However, it is silent on the need to devise and implement a comprehensive strategy to address sectarian violence and discrimination in consultation with relevant stakeholders. It also did not tackle the issue of the rebuilding and restoration of damaged or destroyed churches and the provision of adequate compensation for private property loss. When asked about the government's responsibility to rebuild churches during last week’s press conference, the head of the Commission stated that since the property was destroyed by “Egyptian citizens”, the responsibility to rebuild also falls on Egyptian citizens.
Detainees and prisoners:
The Commission's report concluded that despite consistent reports of alleged torture and other ill-treatment in prison including by EIPR, it was not able to verify such allegations after visiting a number of prisons including Qanater Prison, Wadi al-Natroun Prison and the Tora Prison Complex. The Commission did not clarify its visit methodology, specifically if it was able to meet detainees of their choice in private and tour the prison premises in their entirety, including solitary confinement cells. The Commission did find evidence of beatings and other violence against detainees upon arrest and while in custody in police stations, but allegedly not in prison.
The Commission also shared information received from the Prison Directorate in July, 2014, claiming that the number of detainees in pretrial detention amounts to 7,389, while the number of convicted prisoners is 1,697. The report did not specify whether these numbers reflect the total number of the prison population, or only those detainees arrested in the context of political cases since June 30, 2013. The figures are much lower than estimates provided by Ministry of Interior officials to the Associated Press in July 2014, amounting to 22,000 arrested since the 30 June events. The Commission also refuted allegations of unlawful detention, despite reports provided by EIPR among others on the presence of victims of enforced disappearance and arbitrary detention at al-Azouly Military Prison, which the Commission did not visit.
EIPR welcomes the Commission's recommendations to limit the use of pretrial detention to exceptional and justified circumstances, to amend the definition of torture in Egypt's Penal Code to comply with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to encourage the public prosecution to visit places of detention, and to protect all those in custody from torture or other ill-treatment.
Violence against women:
In the section related to violence against women, the report did not give the issue of sexual violence during protests its due importance. The documentation of grass-root groups and human rights organizations – including EIPR – show there were 186 alleged incidents of mob sexual assaults in Tahrir square and its vicinity during the week of June 30. In addition, the report is entirely silent on cases of sexual, bodily and verbal assault against women in the course of the dispersal of Rabaa al- Adawya sit-in and its aftermath by state and non-state actors. In many cases they took place against the background of the previously mentioned sectarian attacks. EIPR and Nazra for Feminist Studies documented a number of these assaults in their joint report that was also submitted to the Commission earlier this year.
EIPR values the Commission's recommendation related to fair trials in incidents of violence against women, but this has to be done in the framework of transitional justice where the survivors of these incidents are entitled to receive reparation and compensation. Moreover, the legal amendment in the article related to sexual harassment which the Commission has acknowledged is just a first step on the road of reform of sexual crimes' laws and the state should amend the rest of the articles related to sexual assaults and rape.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
In conclusion, the report fell short of the expectations of EIPR which welcomed the establishment of the Commission and engaged in a productive dialogue and cooperation with the Commission whenever it was invited to contribute to its work. EIPR emphasizes that any potential steps in the direction of transitional justice is inevitably undermined by the failure of the Commission and other, similar fact-finding commissions since 2011 to address the imperative concepts of redress, retribution and reparation.
To address the flaws in the process and outcome of the fact-finding process, the Commission should release the full report publicly to fulfill people’s basic right to truth, and to achieve the transparency required for any real attempt to achieve constructive transitional justice. The Commission should also share all the evidence it has collected indicating individual criminal responsibility with the relevant judicial authorities for further investigation, with a view to bringing all those responsible to justice.
Moreover, the Egyptian government should establish a follow-up mechanism to monitor and implement the recommendations of the Fact-Finding-Commission. The government should also repeal Law 107 of 2013 on public assembly, which is not in line with the Egyptian Constitution and Egypt's international obligations to uphold the right to peaceful assembly. An independent and impartial mechanism must be mandated by the government to investigate cases of death or serious injury at the hands of the police and other security forces, including in detention facilities. The government must ensure that victims and survivors of human rights abuses including those interviewed by the Fact-Finding Commission receive full reparation, including financial compensation. The restoration and rebuilding of churches destroyed or damaged during the violence in the summer of 2013 must also be prioritized.
For a full list of recommendations by the EIPR to ensure non-repetition of the violence and abuse witnessed during the summer of 2013, visit: