Egypt: Year of the SCAF
A timeline of mounting repression
A year has passed since the military assumed power after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted. But is Egypt any closer to the freedom and justice it sought when its people rose up against the Mubarak regime?
The ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) has implicitly acknowledged some injustices committed since it took the reins of power. The military council for instance issued an apology to Egyptian women after a furore surrounded the part-stripping and beating of a female protester by military soldiers. Prime Minister Kamal El Ganzouri also acknowledged that the victims of the Maspero massacre in October and the confrontations in Mohamed Mahmoud Street in November were indeed martyrs of the revolution.
The head of the military judiciary announced on 13 October that the armed forces alone would investigate what is known as the Maspero Massacre — the clashes that took place 9 October, leaving 28 people dead and at least 325 injured, when Coptic Christians marched from Shubra to the State TV building at Maspero to protest the burning of a church in Aswan. The announcement came despite warnings by human rights groups that the killing by the military of Coptic protesters should not be covered up and must be subject to independent and open investigations.
In spite of these acknowledgements and decisions, no army or police personnel have as yet been held accountable for their actions. This may be due to a fear that if some are convicted, others may not follow orders in the future.
Since the military assumed power the investigations conducted under its reign have fallen short of standards of open and transparent scrutiny.
Most of the military’s claims with regard to the major events that have occurred contradict video evidence and eyewitness testimonies. According to human rights lawyer Gamal Eid, director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), “military investigations are unacceptable. They are not independent and it is very clear they are biased.”
There are over 15 major incidents that still need to be properly investigated Many other charges of misconduct and abuses filed before and after military rule have also not been dealt with.
POST PORT SAID FOOTBALL CLASHES
Mass protests in response to the Port Said football clashes took place in the vicinity of the Ministry of Interior on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and in the city of Suez. At least 15 people were killed as police responded by heavy use of tear gas and birdshot. Even after walls were erected around the ministry, police attacked protesters chasing them into Bab El Louk. The Minister of Interior, Mohamed Ibrahim, claimed much like his predecessor Mansour El Essawy that no shots were fired.
THE PORT SAID FOOTBALL MASSACRE
At least 74 people have died in football clashes on 2 February in the city of Port Said following a match between Ahly and Al Masry football teams. Witnesses hold the police responsible for having failed to secure the match. There are accusations of gross negligence and some activists have accused the ruling military council of instigating these clashes. Parliament is currently overseeing investigations.
THE CABINET ATTACKS
A military crackdown on a sit-in outside the cabinet buildings resulted in 19 killed and 750 injured. Around one hundred of 250 arrested remain in custody; of the released 70 were minors. The events started on 16 December and continued throughout 17, 18 and 19 December making it the longest period of direct military-led violence against protestors since the revolution started.
The period also produced the most scathing body of video evidence incriminating the military, filmed mostly by citizen journalists.
The most notable exampleof this violence caught on camera was of the female protester in Tahrir who was part-stripped, beaten and dragged by military forces. In their press conference the SCAF spokesperson said that the incident was under investigation.
THE BATTLE OF MOHAMED MAHMOUD
The Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes which took place between 19 and 25 November left 41 dead and over one thousand injured, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Health. Despite the presence of incriminating video evidence, the minister of interior denied that forces had fired any ammunition of any kind at protesters. One video shows a truce broken unilaterally by Central Security Forces (CSF). Bothdoctors and journalists were targeted in the events of Mohamed Mahmoud.
The onslaught of attacks on protesters by the police was not preempted despite evidence of targeting protesters in the eye and public pressure. There have been no serious investigations into the actions of the army or the police.
On 27 October 2011, 24-year-old Essam Atta was reportedly tortured to death by prison guards. Despite Atta’s family testifying that a prison officer called Nour was involved in Atta’s torture, the police have not investigated these allegations and concluded that Atta died as a result of ingesting drugs. The Ministry of Interior statement and the forensic report are reminiscent of the official story on Khaled Said, who was murdered in plain view and whose autopsy report had been falsified. The case is currently being examined by the general prosecutor.
THE MASPERO MASSACRE
The Maspero Massacre took place on 9 October 2011 when Coptic Christians took to the streets joined by Egyptian Muslims to protest the destruction and burning of a church in Aswan. Tracing the march provides a body of evidence in terms of videos and eyewitness testimonies that implicate the military in the killings of protestors.
Despite these implications, (SCAF) insisted on conducting investigations alone and ended by exonerating the army. Instead of a full-fledged investigation, revolutionary activists have been summoned to appear before the military prosecution. Activist Alaa Abdel Fattah was detained by military prosecution on serious charges yet no evidence has been presented to the public. General Mohamed El-Assar claimed that army personnel were unarmed and yet one of the charges against Abdel Fattah is theft of a weapon belonging to military forces. In addition, according to Bahaa Saber, another activist who was summoned but released after questioning, the army has Mina Daniel’s name on the list of those accused. Mina Daniel was one of the activists killed on 9 October. His autopsy reports the cause of death as: “projectile entered into the upper chest, exiting the lower back”.
So far there has been no announcement of the names of officers or soldiers investigated or reprimanded, despite clear video evidence and autopsy reports indicating that 12 protesters were run over by Armoured Personnel Carriers. The incitement of violence by the media has not been investigated and no investigation of Minister of Information Osama Heikal has been announced despite charges being filed against him.
THE CHURCH IN EL-MARINAB, ASWAN
The destruction and burning of Mar Girgis Church in the village of El-Marinab, Edfu, in Aswan on 30 September triggered a wave of angry protests. Despite recommendations to remove the governor of Aswan and take corrective action, nothing was done. This deliberate inaction led to the protests that ended in the Maspero Massacre.
TORTURE OF TWO MEN BY ARMY AND POLICE
In the latter half of September 2011, a video of policemen and army personnel torturing two detainees was circulated over the Internet. The military promised a swift investigation, and swift it was. The findings were that the video was fake, and the army officers were released.
THE BATTLE OF ABBASIYA
On 23 July, thousands of protesters tried to march from Tahrir Square to the Ministry of Defense to decry the unmet demands of the 8 July sit-in. Attacks on the protesters resulted in the death of activist Mohamed Mohsen.
On 30 July, state owned Akhbar Al-Yom published the findings of the National Council for Human Rights’ investigation into the incident, according to which the battle of Abbasiya was planned thuggery while video evidence has been presented to the prosecutor general documenting the attacks.
General Hassan El-Reweiny was accused of incitement when he went on air with Dina Abdel Rahman on the Dream TV satellite channel before the march and claimed that protesters would be armed with Molotov cocktails. Charges have been filed against him with the general prosecutor. The case was transferred to the military prosecution office and no action taken.
ASSAULT ON MARTYRS’ FAMILIES
On 28 June 2011, clashes broke out between protesters and the police after families of martyrs killed in the January 25 Revolution were attacked near the Balloon Theatre in Agouza. The fact finding committee suggested that the clashes were premeditated, yet no action was taken to bring about justice.
Mohamed Gad, known as “Sambo”, was sentenced to five years imprisonment despite activists insisting he did not intend to take possession of a firearm he was photographed holding and actually returned it to the Omar Makram Mosque in Tahrir Square on 29 June. Despite the use of excessive force by the police, officers have not been investigated.
NAKBA DAY PROTESTS
Nakba Day on 15 May witnessed protests outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo in solidarity with Palestinians. Demonstrators were dispersed using live ammunition, tear gas and rubber bullets leaving 350 people injured. Over 150 arrests were made. It is unclear until today why the army used excessive force.
Despite promises to investigate the death of Ramy Fakhry, we have yet to hear the results of the investigation. Ramy Fakhry was a 27-year-old electrical engineer who was allegedly killed by the army on his way to work on 13 May 2011. “An investigation could reveal who was present at the time of the shooting,” Eid told Ahram Online, but so far no results have been announced.
THE IMBABA CHURCH ATTACKS
7 May 2011 marked another case of sectarian violence when a church in Imbaba was attacked and set ablaze. Twelve people died in the ensuing clashes and 186 were injured.
Despite the arrest of over 190 people, results of the investigation have not been announced to the public. A large number of those arrested were released and the investigation did not include charges of hate speech. The incompetence of the military prosecution in bringing to light any investigation results casts doubt on the validity of charges against those in custody.
8 APRIL OFFICERS
On 8 April a group of army officers joined Tahrir square protesters in solidarity with the revolution’s goals. In the early hours of 9 April the military dispersed the protesters violently. Witnesses say live ammunition was used, in addition to tasers, batons and teargas. Egyptian human rights organisations called for an immediate investigation into the excessive violence and shootings. According to Gamal Eid, an investigation was promised but no results have been announced, nor is there reason to believe an investigation did take place.
ZAMALEK VS AFRICAIN MATCH
On 2 April 2011 thousands of angry Zamalek fans stormed the pitch in a match between Egypt’s Zamalek club and Tunisia’s Africain club. The military council vowed to investigate the events of the match. We have yet to hear the results of these investigations.
TORTURE AND VIRGINITY TESTS
On 9 March, the sit-in at Tahrir Square was dispersed violently with reports of mass arrests and torture in the vicinity of the Egyptian Museum. Virginity tests were also carried out on female detainees as reported and documented by the El-Nadeem Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Victims of Violence and Torture, Amnesty International, The Washington Post and CNN. The army initially denied that the tests had been carried out, and then promised to launch an investigation. Numerous calls to bring those responsible to justice have been ignored despite numerous eyewitness accounts and evidence.
THE CHURCH OF ATFEEH
In early March, the church in Sol, Atfeeh, in the governorate of Helwan was set ablaze and demolished as a result of sectarian tensions. There have been calls for an investigation into the events so that the perpetrators are held accountable. However, in an interview with Amr Adeeb, SCAF General Hassan El-Reweiny alluded to how preposterous it was to ask for the investigation results after the church has been rebuilt. No one has been held to account for the attack to date.
CORRUPTION, ABUSES AND MISCELLANEOUS OTHERS
No justice has been realised in cases like the killing of protesters, the Battle of the Camel, the bombing of the church in Alexandria and many others. Nobody has been held accountable to numerous incidents as SCAF chooses to turn a blind eye to these crimes.
Civilians caught in the military trials system are tried and convicted in days and sometimes hours with little to guarantee a fair trial while perpetrators of the crimes listed here have yet to be brought to justice. Many charges remain uninvestigated even after being submitted to the prosecutor general.
“Military prosecution only targets activists and the poor, as if it is a trap for revolutionaries and activists,” Eid told Ahram Online. “All investigations and trials under the army serve political ends.”
[Jadaliyya Egypt Editors’ note: This post was originally published on 17 December 2011, under the title “SCAF: A History of Injustice”. It has since been updated and retitled. The original and updated versions of this post were originally published on Ahram Online.]
This article was published by Jadaliyya.
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