Fact-finding group set to blame Islamists for Egypt's post-June 30 violence

Gamal Essam El-Din, Saturday 15 Nov 2014

Report from fact-finding committee on post-Mohamed Morsi violence will blame Islamists for attacking Egypt's Coptic Christians

File Photo: Anti-Morsi protesters (bottom) clash with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, along a road at Ramsis square, which leads to Tahrir Square, during a celebration marking Egypt's 1973 war with Israel, in Cairo October 6, 2013 (Photo: AP)

A fact-finding committee formed to investigate events in Egypt since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi is set to blame Islamists for the wave of violence that swept the country, especially attacks on Coptic Christians, says committee members.

The committee will hold its final meeting on Sunday, when it will have a final review of events since 30 June 2013, the mass protests that led to Morsi's removal by the army, before a press conference is announced to publish its findings, said the committee's chairman, Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad.

Riad said the committee is waiting to hold the press conference until it can look into recommendations proposed by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN HRC) in its recent review of Egypt's rights conditions on 5 November in Geneva.

"We will see if the recommendations of this council can add anything to our anticipated report, or open the door for gathering more information," said Riad, a high-profile judge who was a member of a UN international commission on war crimes in former Yugoslavia.

The committee was formed in December 2013 by interim president Adly Mansour.

Although it is mandated to get prior approval from the president before announcing the details of its findings, Riad said that President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told the committee in a meeting on 2 November that it can publish the report in a press conference.

Iskandar Ghattas, chairman of a mini-committee which drafted the final report, told Ahram Online that the committee's final report is divided into five parts.

The first is a preface, highlighting the committee's methods in investigating and researching the post-30 June events and its own degree of neutrality.

The second part looks into the events leading up to 30 June, while the third focuses on the violent dispersals of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda sit-ins in Cairo on 14 August, 2013, in which hundreds of Morsi supporters died.

This section also deals with clashes in front of the Republic Guard headquarters in the east Cairo district of Nasr City on 8 July, shortly after Morsi's removal, as well as clashes between Morsi supporters and security forces on nearby Al-Nasr Street on 26 July.

Part four covers attacks on Coptic Christians in Upper Egypt after the dispersals, as well as assassinations and the eruption of violence in North Sinai and a number of Egyptian universities and prisons, which Ghattas says "claimed the lives of hundreds of citizens."

The report's title refers to the "events" after Morsi's ouster – and not the 30 June Revolution – which Ghattas says is a sign of the committee's political neutrality.

"This is a neutral title and is completely different from a one made by the US-based Organisation of Human Rights Watch (HRW), which wanted its report to be primarily a list of charges against the Egyptian government," said Ghattas.

HRW's report about the bloody dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, issued on 12 August, 2014, came under the title "Egypt: Rabaa Killings Likely Crimes Against Humanity."

Ghattas also revealed that each chapter ends with a number of recommendations, with a separate fifth chapter with general recommendations for the government and civil society to adopt.

A source close to the report told Ahram Online that the report tried to be as balanced as possible in its investigations about the bloody confrontation between security forces and Islamists.

"We presented the two different points of view about these events, including testimonies and documents provided by senior police and army officials and testimonies delivered by Muslim Brotherhood officials to Human Rights Watch and other sources," said the source.

Brotherhood leaders rejected testifying before the committee, accusing it of bias and of being just a tool to polish the image of "the military coup regime."

The source said the report will give an almost exact figure of the number of victims of the four mentioned accounts of violence. "The report was able to get good evidence about who first called the shots when security forces came to disrupt the Brotherhood sit-ins," said the source.

The interior ministry said 800 people died in the dispersals, around 100 of them police personnel. In its report, HRW said "in the 14 August dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adaweya sit-in alone, security forces killed a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1,000."

The source said that while the committee did its best to be neutral in investigating the events, it clearly takes Islamists to task for their "unprecedented" attacks on Egyptian Copts and churches after the dispersals, especially in Upper Egypt.

He said the attacks were "orchestrated" along with Gamaa Al-Islamiya leaders "in a systematic and well-organised way" in 17 Egyptian governorates.

While other attacks nationwide after Morsi's ouster were more general and focused on security forces and government establishments, those on churches were "sectarian," he said, and thus the worst in Egypt's modern history.

"They aimed at destroying and plundering churches and monasteries completely or partially, and demolishing the houses and other properties of Christians, such as grocery shops, bookstores, jewel shops, orphanages, societies and cars," said the report, adding that "they also included physical attacks in the form of torturing and killing or burning Christians alive.

"Some of this information was provided by priests who were serving in churches and monasteries in Upper Egypt in the summer of 2013," the source said, adding that several Christians refused to testify before the committee out of fear they would face revenge from Islamist militants.

The committee received information from the Nation Council on Human rights – which pointed fingers at Islamists for the violence – as well as Muslim citizens who witnessed the attacks on Christians and Brotherhood leaders inciting the violence – which is backed up with documents and speeches from Brotherhood figures that urged violence on Christians, the source said.

The report deplores the fact that Egypt's police weren't able to defend Christians from the attacks – which the source says was due to the wave of attacks police faced after Morsi's ouster.

The report blames rampant poverty, illiteracy and religious fanaticism for the sectarian attacks in Upper Egypt, and urges the government to better develop this part of the country.

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