National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)
To determine what transpired in Abbasiya Square in July 2011, what parties were involved, and what role government forces played in the violence.
Determining the course of events in Abbasiya Square, compiling and listening to eyewitness reports, and following up on and taking into consideration official declarations by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), other authorities and the April 6 Youth Movement, and media analysis.
Mohsen Awad and a number of unnamed legal researchers.
Relying primarily on eyewitness testimony, the fact-finding committee’s report details the violence encountered by the April 6 Youth Movement protesters at the hands of Egyptian security forces and “aggressors” in Abbasiya Square on July 22, 2011.
- As the protest, which witnesses described as peaceful, made its way toward the Ministry of Defense, it was confronted by Egyptian military and police forces. Government forces closed off the square; the fact-finding committee used video and photographic evidence to determine that security forces were prepared for the protesters’ arrival.
- Eyewitnesses claimed that the violence began when people standing in front of two residential buildings in the square attacked the protesters with “stones, wood saws, building debris, swords, Molotov cocktails, and knives.” Some protesters described the attackers as “inhabitants of [the] Abbasiya neighborhood,” whereas others described them as “popular committees.” Hundreds of people from all parties were wounded and 18 were taken to the hospital with critical wounds.
- According to the fact-finding committee’s report, the protesters were besieged by Egyptian security forces on one side and the violent aggressors on the other. Furthermore, the report claims that the police turned a blind eye to the transgressions committed against the protesters and refused to intervene, in the name of “neutrality.”
- In the aftermath, the SCAF published Declaration 69, which accused the April 6 Youth Movement of seeking to instigate conflict between the Egyptian people and the military and to undermine Egyptian stability.
The fact-finding committee’s report concludes with several recommendations, calling for:
- the identification and prosecution of the responsible parties behind the violence in Abbasiya (and “what preceded it in similar incidents” in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez);
- the Egyptian government to respect the rights of all Egyptian citizens to demonstrate peacefully against the government and its policies;
- strong condemnation of any rhetoric that sharpens divisions and castigates other Egyptians as traitors; and
- Egyptians to resolve their political differences without disputing the patriotism of their counterparts.
The brevity of the fact-finding committee’s two-page report, combined with its vague description of events and eyewitness reports, undermines its value as an investigative document and suggests that the fact-finding committee did not make a vigorous effort to research and present the facts or, at best, that it was unable to do so. The report seems to be missing details to confirm or deny various eyewitness accounts published in the media that state that military police set up barriers prior to their arrival at the Ministry of Defense, clashed with protesters, encircled them for hours, and did not protect them from thugs.
The report was written more as a press release rather than a full report, and no lengthier, more comprehensive report was available on the NCHR website. The report does not concretely identify the responsible parties, nor does it present any new information or findings beyond what was detailed in media reports. Ultimately, even though the report’s findings were conclusive, its ability to contribute to determining the truth was undermined by the committee’s methodology; the committee did not analyze crucial evidence that would lend it credibility, such as medical reports from injured protesters, police records of complaints by citizens of damaged property, or any of the available video evidence. Ultimately, the report presents a relatively straightforward account of events; however, its brevity, lack of detail, and failure to establish responsibility reflect poorly on its usefulness as a transitional justice tool.
The full text of the report is available in Arabic here.