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Egyptian Government Accused Of Suppressing Abuse Report

Apr 12, 2013
Originally published on April 12, 2013 6:34 pm
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Human Rights Watch is calling on the president of Egypt to publish a report on the abuse of protesters. The report was completed about four months ago. The committee that wrote it was created to investigate abuse committed by Egypt's security forces from the 2011 uprising through the military rule that followed. Sections of the report leaked this weak to Egyptian and British newspapers confirming allegations of excessive violence and torture. NPR's Leila Fadel has this story from Cairo.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: The report comes from the fact-finding committee created by President Mohammed Morsi soon after he was elected. The independent committee was made up of senior officials from different agencies, including the intelligence community. It was tasked with investigating the abuse and killing of protesters during Egypt's uprising in 2011 as well as the abuse, killing and disappearance of people under the period of military rule that followed it. Heba Morayef, the Egypt director for Human Rights Watch, says the fact that the president hasn't made the report public could be a sign that the state plans to suppress it.

HEBA MORAYEF: This report is the first official acknowledgement of the fact that the military and the police were involved in abuses against protesters over the last two years. And the surreal thing is that here we are more than two years after the uprising and there's been no real accountability.

FADEL: The four leaked chapters include lists of names of military officers that the committee says should be investigated, including a former member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. It also documents excessive force by the police and army and the military's role in cases of people who disappeared.

MORAYEF: If Morsi can't even make this report public that looks at violence in the past up until the moment when he took power, then that gives me very little faith in his interest in reforming the police or ensuring that they're held to account for the abuses they're responsible for today because torture is continuing and excessive force against protesters is continuing.

FADEL: But a senior source in the president's office said the criticism is misplaced. The president never received the report, the source said. Instead, it was referred directly to the general prosecutor's office for investigation. And a source said the president did not review the report himself, quote, "precisely to avert any allegations of a political cover-up." Egypt's Minister of Defense Abdel Fattah el-Sisi denied any wrongdoing following a meeting with the president on Thursday. This speech was posted on YouTube.

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ABDEL FATTAH EL-SISI: (Through Translator) I swear the armed forces did not kill or order any killing, betray or order any betrayal since January 25th. All who hear he me now through the media have to think carefully before they betray their army.

FADEL: President Morsi followed Sisi's statements with his own statement of support for the armed forces. Heba Morayef from Human Rights Watch says that Morsi's words were significant.

MORAYEF: He is saying that he will not allow rumors that harm the image of the military. He seems to be clearly assuring them that this report will not be made public ultimately.

FADEL: Morayef says she doesn't believe Morsi will act on the report because he doesn't want to upset the military at a time of political turmoil. In any case, Egypt's constitution effectively gives immunity to military officers by guaranteeing that only a military court can try them. Leila Fadel, NPR News, Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.