NCHR Fact-Finding

Violence in Egypt in November and December 2011

Established by:

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR)

Mandate

To collect, analyze, and categorize facts about the November and December of 2011 events, (widely known as the Muhammad Mahmoud and cabinet events), to determine the number of persons who died and the causes of their deaths, and to determine the numbers of those wounded, injured, and detained as a result of these events.

Methodology

Examining incident sites; listening to eyewitness testimony; reviewing statements from the the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF); reviewing the statements of the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Interior; visiting field hospitals in Tahrir Square and the hospitals to which the wounded were transferred; verifying with the prosecutor-general a claim of unlawful detention; visiting Zeinhom morgue; surveying national, independent and social media; reviewing footage from social media and eyewitnesses; and requesting additional information from the Ministries of Health, Interior, and Defense.

Named Members

Members of the fact-finding committee included Muhammad Faiek, Mohsen Awad, George Ishaq, Mona Zulfikar, Dr. Fouad Riyadh, Dr. Samir Morkos, and Dr. Doria Sharaf al-Din. A number of researchers also participated: Nabil Shalaby, Ahmed Abdullah, Ahmed Gamil, Asmaa Shihab, Nashwa Bahaa, Karim Shalaby, Muhammad Salah, Muhammad Abdel Moneim, Khaled Marouf, and Amgad Fathi.

Findings

The fact-finding committee issued a 23-page final report.

  • The report’s narrative notes that sit-ins by a small group of those injured during the revolution had begun a week before the Muhammad Mahmoud and cabinet events. These sit-ins swelled in size, with “dozens of citizens” joining in. The group was forcibly dispersed on November 19, leading to unrest across 15 governorates. These protests reignited the demands of the “Friday of Saving the Revolution,” which coalesced into a demand for a transfer of power to civilians. This became known in the media as “The Second Wave of the January Revolution.”
  • The report’s eleven conclusions can be broadly divided into those that address the actions of the protestors, security forces, and the government. Contrary to what the security apparatus had claimed, the report established that the protesters had not intended to obstruct the parliamentary elections.
  • Additionally, the committee discredited the alleged rape of a correspondent for the French channel on the basis of media personality Ahmed Zakaria’s testimony that he saved her. The committee could not substantiate reports that some protesters were offered bribes to fabricate sexual harassment cases in order to discredit the protesters. The committee categorized a section of protesters as tarnishing the reputation of all demonstrators by clashing with security forces and contributing to a general atmosphere of lawlessness.
  • Several conclusions addressed the role of the security apparatus, all of which confirmed that civilian and military police used excessive force against the peaceful sit-in, which led to an escalation of the clashes. The report could not confirm who used live bullets against the protesters, but noted that regardless of whether a “third party” or security personnel were involved, the security personnel were responsible for protecting the protesters and uncovering the identity of the “third party.”
  • The committee also confirmed at least one military use of a shotgun, based on video evidence, and excluded the possibility of poison or nerve gas use by the military personnel. The committee could not verify the identity of the alleged “third party,” though it received evidence alleging blackmail and corruption by the dissolved National Democratic Party. The committee noted the wide societal rifts caused by the “honorable citizen” label applied by the SCAF and the Ministry of Interior to those who were not participating in the protests.

Recommendations

Ultimately, the committee recommended:

  • accelerating the judicial inquiry into the perpetrators identified in the report;
  • the speedy compensation of those killed and wounded;
  • a prompt public announcement of the trial results for violence against women;
  • restructuring the National Council for Women;
  • delivering on governmental commitments to human rights issues (especially the right to peaceful protest, public freedoms, social justice, terminating military trials of civilians, instituting a minimum wage, and adopting an equitable tax policy)’
  • reforming British colonial-era laws on protest;
  • training security personnel in line with international standards on treatment of protesters;
  • improving negotiation mechanisms between the public and government during the remainder of the transition;
  • appealing to political movements to allow the government time to fulfill its promises; and
  • enabling the NCHR and other human rights entities to monitor investigations and have access to government information.

Analysis

The fact-finding committee’s final report contains several spelling mistakes and sentences that are hard to read. The report is 23 pages long, in contrast to the majority of NCHR reports, which are usually shorter; it is available in both English and Arabic and contains a large number of named members and researchers. This may allude to the importance of the subject at hand and the degree to which it was in the public eye. The report’s factual basis is weak, dependent solely on a few public official and eyewitness testimonies. It does not have a basis for its claim that a section of protesters tarnished the reputation of the whole; the eyewitness testimonies cited in the report mainly focus on types of injuries and actions by the police. The committee notes that additional information was requested from the Ministries of Health, Interior, and Defense, but does not note in its conclusion why these ministries were unresponsive. The report’s tone seems critical of the state forces and sympathetic toward the protesters, but never explicitly criticizes the SCAF or other state bodies. The recommendations provided by the committee are vague, and potentially undemocratic, such as its request that political movements grant the government time to prove itself. Ultimately, the report’s lengthiness does not necessarily indicate comprehensive coverage, though its recommendations accurately argue for greater access to government information.

The committee notes that social media documents a much larger number of casualties and injuries than official figures. A report by Human Rights Watch on sexual assault of protesters in Egypt spotlights the many incidents of sexual harassment and assault committed by the police during the events of November and December 2011; however, the fact-finding committee’s report never addresses this issue, despite reports from other media reports.

Report

A full text of the report is available in Arabic here. An official English translation of the report is available here.