Under the pretext of “war on terrorism”, the state is turning from a tool to achieve justice to become an “arm of injustice”, said a report prepared by a group of human rights organisations.
The report was launched during a joint press conference held on Saturday entitled “Arms of Injustice”. It addressed the state’s contribution to the proliferation of injustice since the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July 2013.
The 30 page report consists of three inter-related papers; one addresses unjust laws such as the Protest Law, another addresses the Ministry of Interior’s grave violations of human rights and laws, and the third tackles the injustice practiced by the judiciary and the public prosecution.
The signatory organisations accused the current interim regime of “falsely promoting the notion that the country is in a state of war against terrorism, personified by the Muslim Brotherhood, as an excuse to breach human rights and silence criticism”.
“Since 3 July, we have seen acts of terrorism on the rise,” the report read. The organisations concluded that either authorities failed in their mission to quell terrorism, or they preferred to limit the “war on terrorism” to their speeches to justify human rights breaches.
“While the state is using its resources to build an army and chase illusions, not a single official record with the crimes committed since January 2011 has been provided,” the report read.
The organisations criticised the ruling regimes of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and Morsi for failing to reveal the results of two consequent fact-finding committees established in 2011 and 2012, respectively, to look into the crimes committed since the 2011 uprising.
Addressing the controversial Protest Law, issued by interim President Adly Mansour to organise the right to public assembly, the signatory organisations pointed out that all regimes that ruled Egypt since 2011 invested their time in curbing the right to protest.
“Instead of acknowledging that it was the right to protest, which brought the current regime to power and it must therefore organise it and allow it to evaluate its [the regime’s] work, the government fears protesting will overthrow it as it did with previous ruling regimes, and therefore protesting becomes a threat the government must stop,” the report read.
The organisations pointed out that the Protest Law obliges public assembly organisers to notify the authorities with their planned assembly at least three working days in advance. They nevertheless stated that the wording of the law “emptied the notification out of its context” as it gave the Minister of Interior or the concerned security director the right to cancel, move or change the route of a protest.
The signatory organisations criticised the Protest Law for “harsher” punishments related to protesting; they also condemned the “ambiguity” of such punishments within the text. The controversial law was also criticised for giving the Ministry of Interior freedom to use force in dispersing protests should they become “non-peaceful”, without clearly defining what being non-peaceful means.
At least twice security forces abused this law, the organisations said. They pointed to the 26 November protest against military trials for civilians; the first protest to be violently dispersed according to the Protest Law. The organisations condemned the actions practiced by security forces during the dispersal, accusing the latter of detaining the protesters without due cause and fabricating charges against them, as well as sexually assaulting a number of female protesters arrested.
The second example provided in the report was “storming” the Cairo University campus on 28 November to disperse a protest, which led to the death of Faculty of Engineering student Mohamed Reda.
The report went on to tackle human rights abuses frequently exercised by security forces amid continuous impunity since the time of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and until this day.
Citing Wiki Thawra, a website dedicated to documenting the Egyptian revolution, the organisations calculated the death toll for the 18 days of the January 2011 uprising to be 1,075. During the 17 months of SCAF’s tenure, Wiki Thawra reported 438 deaths, in addition to 470 deaths during Morsi’s tenure. Since Morsi’s ouster on 3 July and until October, the website cited the death toll as 2,665, including 2,273 killed during political clashes. Official counts cited the death toll for the months of July and August 2013 as 976.
The signatory organisations stated they continuously receive accounts from alleged torture victims, all tortured at the hands of security forces inside and outside detention facilities. The organisations noted in the report they had documented numerous incidents of dragging, stripping, and beating detainees who belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and other civilian activists.
The organisations said they were unable to provide an accurate count of all those arrested since Morsi’s ouster, “since arresting hundreds per day has become a norm”. The report nevertheless cited independent reports issued by signatory organisations which stated that at least 510 students were arrested from 3 July to November, 27 journalists were arrested from 26 July to 26 August, and 184 women were arrested since the forcible dispersal of the pro-Morsi Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Al-Nahda sit-ins on 14 August.
The signatory organisations also referred to sectarian attacks, prevalent since the dispersals of pro-Morsi sit-ins, which have thus far warranted little to no intervention by security forces.
The organisations criticised the public prosecution and the judiciary for aiding the interior ministry in its injustice.
They listed violations practiced by the public prosecution, such as: appealing release orders served to detainees, agreeing to investigate suspects inside detention facilities as opposed to interrogating them inside courts, and failing to supervise detention facilities as the laws and constitution stipulate. They also criticised the judiciary for frequently handing suspects preventive detention sentences. The organisations said they were unable to provide a count for those preventively detained due to the phenomenon’s wide proliferation.
The report was signed by 14 non-governmental organisations and groups, most notably: the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, El-Nadeem Centre for Rehabilitation of Torture Victims, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre and the No Military Trials for Civilians Group.