Popular committee to independently investigate violence, killings during demos

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By Heba Fahmy

CAIRO: The Popular Fact-finding Committee, formed of law professors and human rights activists, said Sunday it will start investigating crimes committed against protestors during the January 25 Revolution.

The committee is neutral, has no political affiliations and consists of members known for their integrity and efficiency, according to a statement issued by the committee.

It consists of nine members including law professor Hossam Eissa, prominent lawyers Khaled El Shalakany, former director of Hisham Mubarak law Center Ahmed Seif El Islam and human rights activist Fatma Khafagi.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had formed a fact-finding committee to investigate the violence that took place during the demonstrations last week. However, members of Popular Fact-finding Committee insist that Shafiq’s committee hasn’t done its job and continues to protect government officials from prosecution.

“The more we gain the people’s support, the more we will gain legitimacy and credibility and this will pressure government officials to take our investigations seriously,” El Shalakany told Daily News Egypt following a press conference at the Journalists’ syndicate on Sunday.

The committee launched a signature-gathering campaign to gain the people’s support in forcing government officials to abide by its findings and investigations.

The committee’s investigations will include the officials who gave security forces orders to fire live ammunition at peaceful protestors, the police’s organized withdrawal on Jan. 28 from the streets causing chaos across the country; and those responsible for violently attacking the peaceful protestors in Tahrir Square using horses and camels on Feb 2.

The committee discussed the incident of a white van, allegedly affiliated with an embassy, that ran over more than 13 protestors on Qasr El-Einy Street on Jan. 28.

“We will investigate this issue and resolve it once and for all, despite the blackout on accurate information regarding this incident because it’s related to the American Embassy,” Eissa said during the press conference.

The committee added that they would document and investigate the exact number of deaths and missing, as the official numbers announced were proven inaccurate.

According to the initial findings of the Ministry of Health, the death toll during the revolution is 384, while the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protestors (FDEP) said 503 were killed.

The committee will cooperate with diverse human rights groups including the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, the Hisham Mubarak law Center and the FDEP to document information.

“We already have verified information about more than 503 martyrs, around 1,000 detainees and 80 missing,” said director of Hisham Mubarak Law Center Ahmed Ragheb. “We can share this information with the committee in hope to reach an accurate number of the deceased, missing and detained.’

The committee called on those who have information or testimonies regarding the violence that took place starting Jan. 25 to share it with the committee.

“If we exert all our efforts and focus on one incident at a time, we might be able to issue our first accurate report, including our findings, after a couple of weeks,” El Shakalany said.

“We will then pressure officials including the Prosecutor General to prosecute those responsible for these crimes and we will follow up on them and announce the report in the media,” El Shalakany said.

“This is a true test to the current regime; it must take our investigations seriously and prosecute those responsible for the crimes during the revolution,” he added.

A man helps a wounded anti-regime protester at Tahrir Square in Cairo on Feb. 2, 2011. (AFP Photo/Andrey Smirnov)



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