NCHR Fact-Finding

Maspero

Established by:

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)

Mandate

To collect, analyze, and categorize facts about the events of Maspero in October 2011; to determine the number of persons who died and the causes of their deaths; to determine the number of those wounded, injured, and detained as a result of Maspero; and, ultimately, to refer the report of the fact-finding committee to the prosecutor-general for follow-up as necessary.

Methodology

Gathering field reports from the NCHR’s researchers; collecting reports by Egyptian human rights nongovernmental organizations; collecting data about Maspero from different print and visual media outlets; hosting sessions to listen to eyewitnesses, injured persons, victims’ families, and groups who participated or were present at Maspero; and requesting data from the Ministries of Information, Interior, Health, and Defense (all ministries ultimately provided information, except the Ministry of Defense). The committee was formed at an emergency meeting of the NCHR on October 10, 2011.

Named Members

Members of the fact-finding committee included Mona Zulfikar, Dr. Osama al-Ghazali Harb, Dr. Iskandar Ghattas, Inaam Muhamma Ali, George Ishaq, Hafez Abu Saada, Dr. Doria Sharaf al-Din, Dr. Samir Morkos, Amr al-Shobaky, Dr. Amr Hamzawi, Dr. Fouad Riyadh, Mohsen Awadh, Nasser Amin, and Youssef al-Akid. A number of legal researchers assisted in the drafting of the fact-finding committee’s report: Gamal Barakat, Nabil Shalaby, Islam Shakweir, Ahmed Abdullah, Karim Shalaby, Khaled Marouf, Osama Nashaat, Ahmed Gamil, Asmaa Shihab, and Nashwa Bahaa.

Findings

The fact-finding committee’s report begins with a summary of events. (Unless otherwise noted, the fact finding committee does not identify who these witnesses were.)

  • The committee determined that a protest began on October 9, 2011, when 50,000 protesters began to march to Maspero, chanting slogans demanding equal rights for Christians. Unanimous witness testimony, according to the committee, provides evidence that the protest was peaceful.
  • Protesters were attacked on their way by unidentified civilians, but continued onward to Maspero. At Maspero, the military police prevented the protesters from meeting another group of peaceful protesters, and some individuals threw stones and plastic bottles at the police.
  • The military police then dispersed the protests using wooden sticks and rubber bullets. During this time, unidentified individuals fired live ammunition; seven protesters were killed and several injured. Several testimonies claimed that the live ammunition came from the military police, while others claimed that the military only used rubber bullets; the military entirely denied opening fire on civilians. The report does not make a conclusive determination on this point. After the dispersal of protesters, armored vehicles ran over protesters, resulting in 12 deaths and five injuries. Protesters reacted by pelting stones and attacking the military police.
  • The report finds that after television reports and rumors announced that Christians were allegedly attacking the army, civilians joined the army in attacking protesters. Military police and pro-army civilians eventually succeeded in dispersing the protesters (after several violent events) and a curfew was imposed.

Recommendations

The fact-finding committee’s report demands that an independent judicial committee investigate the events that killed 28 and left 321 injured. It criticizes the prosecutor-general’s decision to transfer investigations to the Military Prosecution. The report also refers to biased language on official television media, which incited hate against Coptic protesters. The fact-finding committee recommends:

  • promptly promulgating a unified law for the construction of places of worship;
  • considering a law that ensures equality between all citizens; and
  • bringing the laws governing public protests and assemblies in line with international law.

Analysis

The fact-finding committee’s report comprehensively outlines the narrative of events and pays specific attention to the role of the military and the media. The fact-finding committee’s recommendations are specific, and its understanding of events is based on a wide range of evidence. When investigating the incident and compiling its report, the fact-finding committee was able to gather data from varied sources and to substantiate the data with legal references to pave the way for future investigative work. However, and perhaps because of the contentious nature of the events, it does not identify all of the witnesses it interviewed, making it impossible to know whether the committee interviewed a sufficiently wide cross section of witnesses.

The committee also took unique, unprecedented efforts to engage with the public; it held a public press conference on November 2, 2011, a step rarely taken by other NCHR fact-finding committees. The committee presents a lengthy section on other contentious events in Egypt, particularly sectarian ones, but does not explicitly state that the violence at Maspero was sectarian. The fact-finding committee’s tone seems to blame the police and security forces, but their culpability is not addressed in the report’s recommendations. The final section of the report is particularly strong, in that it details the legal provisions governing the crimes that were committed in Maspero. The report’s recommendations are commendable for deeply analyzing the legal context of events, but the recommendations do not address any other structural factors, particularly government policies that affect sectarianism. Overall, and as compared to other independent fact-finding initiatives and coverage, the report is appropriate in its assessment of military culpability and accurately identifies the underlying factors that contributed to the occurrence of the massacre, including the role of the media.

Report

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