Court fails to deliver justice to martyrs’ families, human rights groups say

Amnesty International criticized the Cairo Criminal Court Saturday for failing to deliver justice in the trials of former officials.

The court convicted on Saturday morning former President Hosni Mubarak and former Interior Minister Habib al-Adly of complicity in killing protesters during the 2011 uprising, but set nine other defendants free.

“The trial and verdict have today left the families of those killed, as well as those injured in the protests, in the dark about the full truth of what happened to their loved ones and it failed to deliver full justice,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Egyptian authorities must now establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry to fill the gap that the court left open," the press statement read.

The human rights organization detailed what it said were the shortcomings of the trial, such as the inability of the prosecution to give concrete evidence due to the lack of cooperation from intelligence and security officials and the Interior Ministry.

“We regret that the lack of cooperation by the authorities with the prosecution has led to a missed opportunity to establish the full truth about what happened during the 18-day uprising and afterwards,” Harrison said.

“This lack of cooperation no doubt had implications for the verdict, but more importantly undermines the rule of law and prevents the families of the victims and those injured from knowing all the facts as far as they are concerned.”

Human Rights Watch, another international NGO, also criticized the prosecution for failing to gather sufficient evidence.

“These convictions set an important precedent since just over a year ago seeing Hosni Mubarak as a defendant in a criminal court would have been unthinkable,” said HRW Deputy Middle East Director Joe Stork in a statement. “But the acquittal of senior Ministry of Interior officials for the deaths and injuries of peaceful protesters leaves police impunity intact and the victims still waiting for justice. ”

The international watchdog has also said that both Ahmed Mohamed Ramzy Abdel Rashid, the head of Central Security Forces, and Ismael al-Shaer, the head of the Cairo Security Directorate, “by virtue of their position at least, at a minimum must have known about the illegal use of deadly force against protesters by police forces under their control. The court did not appear to apply the same due diligence standard it applied to Mubarak and Adly.”

HRW said, however, that the trial itself was generally fair adding that the judges “properly handled the courtroom management of multiple defendants and civil parties on disparate charges and generally permitted the defendants and their counsel ample opportunity to submit motions, argue, and rebut.”

HRW also noted the court's shortcomings, including not giving civil lawyers the chance to hear additional witnesses such as officials from the General Intelligence Services and Presidential Guard, or access to documents they considered important.

Amnesty International criticized the court for preventing victims' families from attending the trial and alleged that some family members were beaten and intimidated by police.

Amnesty said that the verdict failed to send “a strong signal that human rights violations will not be tolerated in the future and that no one is above the law."

Since March 2011, the attorney general has referred at least 26 cases to court in which he charged more than 150 policemen with killing and injuring protesters during the revolution. The majority of these cases are still pending or have resulted in acquittals.

“The pattern of acquittals in recent cases against security officers indicates a failure of the criminal justice system to end impunity for serious human rights violations,” Stork said.

Amnesty said such violations will continue until the government makes much-needed changes.

“Today’s verdicts must be seized as an opportunity to start urgently needed institutional and legal reforms with a view to ending Egypt’s entrenched culture of impunity for human rights violations,” Harrison said. “Until such reforms are introduced, security officers and others will continue to see they are still able to escape punishment for the violations and abuses they commit.”

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