By Mai Shams El-Din and Safaa Abdoun
CAIRO: The Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters confirmed in a press conference on Wednesday that the death toll of the Jan. 25 Revolution has gone up to 686, most of them killed during the “Friday of Anger” on Jan. 28.
“The number is increasing, but these are the numbers we have documented right now,” said activist Nadeem Mansour.
“Most of the martyrs are from Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez. Their ages range between 20 and 29. The majority are students and poor workers.”
This report conflicts with the official report released by the Ministry of Health that the number of those killed is 365 whose bodies ended up the ministry’s public hospitals.
“We urge the Ministry of Health to declare the actual number of victims,” said Mansour.
The press conference that was held in coordination with the Journalists’ Syndicate’s Freedoms Committee presented human rights violations including arbitrary detentions, military trials, and torture from Jan.25 to March 8.
Activist with the Cairo Center for Human Rights Sally Samy confirmed that most of the detentions that took place during the revolution were completely random, either by police, military police, or public committees handing in alleged suspects to the military police.
“Thousands have been detained during the revolution … and it is hard to point out which security institution is responsible,” said Samy. “A group of our fellow activists were detained by state security officers who had a huge debate with military officers over who has the authority to detain them.”
Samy also confirmed that many detainees are being held in military camps, while the military refuses to acknowledge the detentions.
“It is the responsibility of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to announce the official number of detainees.”
Adel Ramadan, an activist with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said that thousands of civilian detainees were put on trial in military courts.
“Trials take three days, a day of detention, a day for interrogation, and a day for a court ruling,” said Ramadan. “There are no lawyers, and defence witnesses are not allowed to testify in military courts.”
Ramadan claimed that while in custody, detainees were sometimes left hungry and thirsty for days.
“There are 15-year-old kids in military courts; the problem is that the military prosecution does not have the experience to deal with civilians.”
Activist Magda Botros claimed that many human rights violations took place in prisons on Jan. 27, 28, and 29 including the shooting of prisoners who refused to escape and the excessive use of violence.
“We documented violations in five prisons where inmates were shot by police officers, and were left with no access to food and water and basic medical treatment,” said Botros.
“The death toll reached 80 prisoners in two prisons only and dead bodies were left in prison cells for days.”
Activist Dr. Mona Hamed recited the testimony of a nurse who was serving in Tahrir Square’s field hospital.
“The hospital was allegedly shot at by thugs and security forces on Jan. 28 and Feb. 2 when thugs on camels attacked the square,” said Hamed. “The medical situation there was very bad, with very limited medical resources mainly supplied through donations by ordinary citizens.”
Activist Magda Adly recounted some of the testimonies of people reportedly tortured by police, army and intelligence officers.
“One of the testimonies includes that of a 15-year-old boy who was blindfolded and tortured for 18 days by intelligence officers and was arrested during the curfew,” said Adly, “While another 18-year-old boy was tortured inside the Egyptian Museum.”
Meanwhile, an unofficial fact finding committee has convened to investigate criminal acts by the security forces, officials in the past regime and members of the ruling National Democratic Party during the revolution.
They listed 12 issues they plan to investigate that include shooting protestors, opening the prisons, inciting violence against demonstrators and foreigners, and the use of violence against journalists.
“We have certain priorities within these 12 missions, looking into the most difficult first, but we will be issuing our first report in approximately three weeks to be submitted to the Prosecutor General,” explained Maged Al-Sawy, spokesman of the fact finding committee.
In case no action is taken by the Prosecutor General regarding the findings in the report, the committee will take its report to the criminal court, noted Al-Sawy.
The committee which includes university professors and legal experts is working closely with human rights organizations, especially the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, in gathering and comparing data and other information.
This fact finding committee is different from the Independent Fact Finding Committee headed by Judge Adel Koura, former head of the Court of Cassation, which was set up by ex-prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.