NCHR Fact-Finding

Death of a Citizen in Suez

Established by:

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)

Mandate

To investigate what happened in the events surrounding the death of Muhammad Ali Abdel Baqi in September 2011, and the subsequent riots and attack on al-Janain Police Station.

Methodology

Interviewing eyewitnesses and policemen, including those wounded in the attacks on the police station and an undercover policeman involved in the security operation that was conducted in al-Janain.

Named Members

Ahmed Gamil and Ahmed Khalil.

Findings

The initial portion of the report addresses Muhammad Ali Abdel Baqi’s altercation with the police on September 22, 2011.

  • During a security inspection of the entire area by the al-Janain Police Department, Muhammad Ali Abdel Baqi was stopped and ordered to get into a police car by two officers. He refused and exchanged heated words with the officers, prompting one of the officers to hit him on the head with his pistol butt.
  • The testimony of the police on the incident contradicts this initial narrative in the report (it is not clear upon whose testimony the report’s official narrative is based). According to the police, Abdel Baqi and four companions (according to the young women, there were two companions) were attempting to kidnap a young woman when their motorcycle was stopped by police. Although the other two were quickly subdued, Abdel Baqi tried to flee the scene as soon as the police car stopped. He jumped into a hole and hit his head on a building foundation.
  • However, testimonies provided by police officers and witnesses contained several glaring discrepancies. For example, while there was general consensus among the police that Abdel Baqi was armed, police officers gave conflicting testimonies about the number, type, and location of Abdel Baqi’s weapon(s). Eyewitnesses strongly contradicted the police claims that Abdel Baqi was attempting to kidnap the woman and that he fled from police. Additionally, a medical report obtained by the committee identifies herniated discs in Abdel Baqi’s back, which would have made it extremely difficult for him to run, casting doubt on the police’s claims.

The second section of the report highlights the several contradictory and inconsistent testimonies regarding Abdel Baqi’s death.

  • Some stated that the officers attempted to revive Abdel Baqi, then immediately took him to the hospital, but that he died before arriving. Others stated that he was taken to the police station, where he died, while yet another testified that he was taken unconscious to the police station and then to the hospital in a police car.
  • A female witness testified that when the officer carried Abdel Baqi to the police car, he had blood pouring out of his mouth—a claim that is strongly contradicted by the police. She also testified that the trip from the site to the police station took about two hours, because the officers stopped several times for cigarettes and to talk to soldiers along the way.
  • The report concludes that the police’s account is dubious in light of the contradictory statements issued by members of the security apparatus, the medical report obtained by the committee, discrepancies between the female witness’s account and that of the police, and the volume and consistency of other eyewitness testimonies that challenge the veracity of the police’s account.

The third section of the report delves into the blocking off of the ٍSuez Road by residents of al-Janain in response to the death of Abdel Baqi, as well as the attack on the police station, which resulted in the arson of several cars and the wounding of five policemen. The report highlights conflicting testimony from the police about the death of Abdel Baqi and the ensuing violence. No consistent and clear narrative emerges. What is clear, however, is that several police officers were injured, and several privately owned and police vehicles were set on fire, and a large truck was tipped over into the canal.

Recommendations

The report concludes with four recommendations:

  • waiting on the coroner’s official report to determine the cause of death;
  • verifying the police’s account of events, and specifically whether Abdel Baqi attempted to flee and died after hitting his head or whether he was killed by the police;
  • determining whether police negligence and the delay in providing proper medical care played a role in Abdel Baqi’s death; and
  • using all appropriate legal measures to punish those responsible for attacking the al-Janain Police Station and cutting off the Suez Road.

Analysis

Overall, the report does a very good job of pointing out discrepancies in police and witness testimonies, which cast doubt on the veracity of the police account. The report’s methodology lends it credibility for including interviews of both eyewitnesses and police compared to other NCHR reports that have often only highlighted one side of the narrative. The report is frank in highlighting the discrepancies in the police narrative, a testament to its objectiveness. However, while the report does highlight the dubiousness of the police narrative, it fails to establish another narrative, provide any actionable evidence, or make any determinative conclusions. Furthermore, while the report includes testimony from a wide variety of sources, one voice that is lacking is that of Abdel Baqi’s companions. The report’s recommendations are commendable for their specificity, though they only seem to raise more unanswered questions.

Report

A full text of the report is available in Arabic here.