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Security-Related Charges and Designations

Abu Zaabal Case

Court / Presiding Judge

First Review: Khanka Misdemeanour Court/Judge Muhammad Abdullah Abbas
Second Review: Khanka Misdemeanour Appeals Court/Judge Sherif Sarrag
Final Review: Court of Cassation

Procedural History

In March 2014, the court issued its verdict upon first review. A retrial was ordered and a verdict was issued upon second review on August 13, 2015. A final review of the case was issued on February 8, 2018.

Verdict

Upon first review, the vice warden of the Heliopolis Police Station was sentenced to 10 years in prison and three police officers were sentenced to a suspended one-year prison term. In June 2014, the sentences were overturned. Upon second review, the court reduced the vice warden’s 10-year prison sentence to five years, while upholding the suspended prison sentences against the three policemen. Upon final review, the court affirmed the five-year sentence handed down to the vice warden, as well as the suspended prison sentences for the remaining three policemen.

Summary of Reasoning

This case involved the death of 37 detainees who were killed inside a police vehicle on August 18, 2013, when a tear-gas canister was reportedly shot into the vehicle. During the first trial, prosecutors charged the officers with manslaughter after being unable to to prove criminal intent to murder.

Anecdotal Notes

Forty-five prisoners were reportedly kept inside the police vehicle for over six hours despite inadequate ventilation (police vehicles like the one in question are only made to hold 24 prisoners). When the prisoners complained about their situation, police officers reportedly responded by firing a tear-gas canister to quell the uproar. Temperatures had reached 31 degrees Celsius that day (about 88 degrees Fahrenheit). Investigations confirmed that the ventilation system in the van had been broken.

Legal & Judicial Implications

With mounting accusations regarding the inability of security forces to respect the civil rights of detainees and afford them what is granted to them by the constitution and under international human rights law, the Abu Zaabal case was unsucessful in quelling fears about accountability of security officers. Similar cases in which police officers were initially charged and later acquitted or handed out minimal sentences have also been unable to set vital precedent to curb impunity among security forces.