(New York) – Egypt must ensure the deaths of hundreds of protesters since early 2011 are independently and effectively investigated if the country is to move away from human rights abuses that defined the Mubarak-era, said Amnesty International in a new report marking the second anniversary of the "January 25 Revolution."
The report, "Rampant Impunity: Still No Justice for Protesters Killed in the 'January 25 Revolution'" details shortcomings in investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for the deaths of some 840 individuals during the demonstrations that ended Mubarak’s repressive rule.
At least 6,600 people also sustained injuries during the protests, which were brutally suppressed by security forces.
Twelve people have died during protest violence since President Mohamed Morsi took office.
According to information gathered by Amnesty International in Egypt, security forces used tear gas, water cannons, shotguns, rubber bullets, and live ammunition against protesters during the uprising, in many cases when they were posing no real threat. No senior official or security officer has been convicted or justly punished for killing or injuring protesters.
"President Morsi has repeatedly paid tribute to those who died during the 'January 25 Revolution,' yet little effective action has been taken to ensure those responsible face justice," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa. "In reality, two years after the uprising, the security forces appear to be getting away with murder."
"By not ensuring the perpetrators are punished, President Morsi is doing little to distance himself from decade of abuses."
Courts in Egypt continue to acquit senior and other security officials. In some cases, acquittals were based on lack of evidence or because the courts found the defendants were exercising their right to self-defense, despite well-documented evidence that police used excessive and lethal force when not strictly necessary.
Furthermore, the guilty verdict against President Hosni Mubarak and his Minister of Interior, Habib El Adly, for complicity in killing protesters was overturned by the Court of Cassation on January 13, which opens the door for their retrial.
According to relatives and lawyers interviewed by Amnesty International, many acquittals and the failure of some cases to even make it to court were due to shortcomings in the evidence-gathering process — including video material; medical and forensic reports; and ballistic evidence, which in many cases were not examined or even presented to the courts.
Other essential information, such as records of telephone communication between security officials, registries of deployed security forces and weapons and munitions records provided to security forces, were not obtained from the Ministry of Interior.
Further criticism includes the fact that police officers were involved in the investigations, prompting fears that they might tamper with evidence or withhold information in order to absolve their colleagues and institutions from any liability.
Shortly after assuming power in June 2012, President Morsi established a fact-finding committee to look into the killing and wounding of protesters that occurred before he took office. He also appointed a new Public Prosecutor who promised to conduct fresh investigations and retrials for those acquitted of killing protesters, if new evidence emerged.
Relatives of those killed told Amnesty International they had been asked to present new evidence and that several witnesses had faced intimidation.
"The creation of the Fact-Finding Committee was a good initial step forward, but for it to be a truly positive development, the report needs to be made public and gaps and shortcoming in investigations must be addressed," said Hadj Sahraoui. "Victims and society as a whole have the right to full truth."
"President Morsi needs to turn his promises into reality and demonstrate strong political will to deliver justice for human rights abuses committed against protesters, ensuring that all those responsible up and down the chain of command and regardless of rank or political affiliation are held accountable," said Hadj Sahraoui. "Only then will he be able to break with the legacy of past abuses, and avoid further killings of protesters."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.