After Three Days of Brutal Violence Against Demonstrators: Egyptian Rights Organizations Demand Indictment of Leading Security Officers

Press Release

22 November 2011

The list includes leading officers from the Ministry of Interior, including al-Essawi and Sidhom; and from the Military Police, Badeen, al-Ruwaini... The government's resignation and acceptance of 'political responsibility' will not absolve those accused of killing and wounding hundreds

Five human rights organizations said today that the past three days' brutal attacks on demonstrators, carried out by the Interior Ministry's security forces and military police forces under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Ismailiya, Assyut, and other cities, constitute criminal offences. These offences are without a statute of limitations and the perpetrators and instigators must be brought before criminal trials.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, El-Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information pledged to continue to identify the civilian and military officials involved in killing demonstrators, bursting their eyes and breaking their bones and skulls. These crimes have been extensively documented by these organizations and by the media over the past few days.

The signatory organizations stated that the list of officials it plans to prosecute so far includes: General Mansour al-Essawi, Minister of the Interior; General Sami Sidhom, Assistant Interior Minister for the Security Sector; General Emad al-Din al-Wakil, Assistant Interior Minister for the Central Security Forces; General Hamdy Badeen, head of the military police; and General Hasan al-Ruwaini, commander of the central military district. This is in addition to other civilian and military officials in a number of other cities which have seen similar criminal offences against demonstrators.

The above organizations also emphasized that if those responsible for these crimes are not urgently brought to trial, it will be proof that the Egyptian judicial system is unable or unwilling to achieve justice. This opens the door for their prosecution in front of international courts for the crimes for which they have not been held accountable.

The signatory organizations denounced the fallacious statements made by military officials to the media yesterday, in which they claimed that the role of the military police was limited to securing the Interior Ministry building without engaging with demonstrators. The organizations confirmed that their representatives had themselves witnessed military police forces storming Tahrir Square at around 5pm on Sunday 20th November and brutally assaulting demonstrators with batons, before setting fire to tents and demonstrators' belongings, along with a number of motorbikes. Video clips broadcast on the al-Masry al-Youm website and al-Jazeera Live Egypt show members of the military and civilian police attacking unarmed demonstrators from three sides of the square, using armed personnel carriers, tear gas bombs and batons. They show police hitting demonstrators a number of times on their heads with batons and their feet, after they had fallen to the ground, until demonstrators had completely stopped moving.

Representatives of the above organizations began gathering evidence and testimonies, in addition to their own observations, from the beginning of the attacks and excessive violence on the afternoon of Saturday 19th November. The evidence and investigations so far indicate a clear targeting by security agencies of demonstrators with intent to cause death or serious injury. This included using live ammunition, shotgun cartridges, severe beating and dragging of demonstrators through the streets, and stone throwing, as well as the excessive use of tear gas and the burning tents and belongings of demonstrators.

Independent investigations by the above organizations indicate a similar pattern of excessive use of deliberate violence, which has so far led to almost 40 demonstrators being killed and more than 2000 injured. They pointed towards information received from the Department of Forensic Medicine of the Ministry of Justice, which reported that it had so far received 22 bodies from hospitals at Kasr Al-Aini, Demerdash, Ahmed Maher, and Hilal, and that it had recovered 25 bullets from the bodies of some of the victims. Most of the fatal bullets had lodged in the upper parts of the victims' bodies, which is consistent with what was reported by volunteer doctors in the field hospitals in Tahrir Square and eyewitnesses in other cities. This is in addition to today's complaint presented to the Public Prosecutor by the Board of the Journalists' Syndicate, confirming deliberate attacks on journalists which led to serious injuries.

Despite the overwhelming evidence suggesting that security forces used excessive violence in dealing with demonstrations, the responses of the government, military council, and state media from Saturday to Monday evening were totally counter to the truth and even in support of this brutal violence. Statements from the Interior Ministry included blatant lies denying that their forces fired live ammunition, rubber bullets or cartridges from the outset. Official statements cast blame on the demonstrators without any recognition of the responsibility of the Interior Ministry or the transitional government in what occurred. As usual, the official media adopted inflammatory language against those who television presenters described as 'troublemakers' or 'rioters'. Comments on most television programs on Saturday supported the brutal oppression and violence in the name of 'restoring the security of the state'. On Sunday, the Council of Ministers went so far as to announce that it completely supports the Interior Ministry.

The signatory organizations affirmed that the ministerial cabinet's resignation after three days of brutal violence, their announcement that they will bear what they called 'political responsibility' for the events, and SCAF's expression of 'regret' over the attacks, will not change the criminal nature of the offences committed by civilian and military security forces. Steps towards a political solution will not be sufficient unless accompanied by immediate action to hold the perpetrators criminally responsible and achieve justice for the victims, and the launch of a comprehensive operation of restructuring the Interior Ministry and removing those responsible for these crimes. Independent judicial investigations must be opened into all violations and crimes committed by the civilian and military police since last February. Finally, all those responsible for the state media must be replaced, and its commitment to the highest standards of professionalism and neutrality must be ensured.

Human Rights Organizations: The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights - Hisham Mubarak Law Centre - Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies - El-Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence - Arab Network for Human Rights Information.