By Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: The clashes between police forces and protesters that occurred late June were premeditated, according to a report issued Tuesday by the fact finding committee of the National Council for Human Rights.
The report also said that the martyrs’ families reacted spontaneously to the escalating events.
The committee explained that unlicensed cars transported rocks to the scene of the clashes and created an unjustified crisis during a memorial service held for the martyrs
in El-Balloon Theater in Agouza on June 28.
Police forces used excessive force in response to the incident, according to the report, including an excessive amount of tear gas bombs and pellets, which led to the increase in injuries.
The also report stated that police forces arrested injured protesters while they were being treated which further angered the protesters who swelled in numbers.
The clashes which erupted on June 28 and 29 in front of the interior ministry and in Tahrir Square left 1,114 injured on both sides, according to the Ministry of Health.
According to eyewitnesses, the clashes started earlier on Tuesday when police tried to clear a sit-in at the state TV building, which included families of the martyrs of the January 25 Revolution.
Later in the day, a memorial service planned for the families ended in clashes. The Ministry of Interior said in a statement on Tuesday that “people who claimed to be families of martyrs … tried to break into the theater” where the service was held.
Eyewitnesses said police showed up and attacked the families outside the Balloon Theater in Agouza.
The crowds reportedly moved to the state TV building and then to the Ministry of Interior in Downtown Cairo.
The interior ministry described the clashes in a statement released early Wednesday as riots, saying the numbers were swelling, accusing the protesters of “attacking citizens and private property.” It called upon citizens not to listen to rumors that aim at causing a rift between the people and the police.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) made similar calls in a statement released early Wednesday. It said the Tahrir events aim at disturbing the security and stability of the country through a premeditated plan.
“The blood of the martyrs of the revolution is being used to cause a rift between the people and the security institution,” the statement read.
The committee didn’t specify who was behind the clashes. However the report said frustration of the victims’ families helped ignite the clashes.
The families have expressed on several occasions that they felt neglected by the government in compensating them for their loss, in addition to the slow trials of those accused of murdering their children.
However, independent report issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Human Rights, however, claims that at least 1,500 were injured in the clashes.
Released on Monday, the report accused police forces of using illegal methods to break up the protest. Several eyewitnesses told EIPR that protesters were shot at with live rounds.
EIPR called for disbanding and restructuring the central security forces to include forces specialized in maintaining public security according to certain rules and regulations within the rule of law. It called on the interior ministry to announce a certain timeframe to execute this and set a training program to rehabilitate members of the new forces.
EIPR also requested thorough investigations into the violations committed by police forces against the protesters and the prosecution of those responsible for using excessive force, especially those who intended to harm the protesters.
One of the eyewitnesses told EIPR that police were acting as if they had a personal vendetta against the protesters, not in a bid to merely break up the protest.
EIPR documented at least two cases of protesters shot with live ammunition. The rest of the wounds were inflicted by rubber bullets, pellets and rocks, it said. Others suffered from asphyxiation as a result of tear gas bombs.
“I treated one protester who was shot near his heart with a live bullet and another one who was shot in his leg,” said Abeer Ali, a doctor at a makeshift hospital in Tahrir, adding that one of the protesters said he was shot by central security officers.
Head of the reception desk in El-Munira hospital, Mahmoud Saied said that by 11:45 pm on June 28 the hospital had received 63 injured, including 57 officers. Saied added that one civilian was shot with live ammunition.
The statement cited decree number 153, issued by the interior ministry in 1955, which regulates the reaction of police forces to violent protests held in main streets and public places.
The decree states that first police forces must issue a verbal warning to the protesters to break up their gathering and give them a reasonable time frame to do so. If the first warning is ignored, a second warning is issued.
If the second warning goes unanswered, police forces should gradually use force, starting with tear gas bombs, then escalating to water canon and rubber bullets and ending with live bullets, if all other attempts fail to break up the violent protest.
However, using live bullets should be used with great caution and aimed at the lower part of the body, to prevent any loss of life.
According to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, police forces should use limited force only when it’s absolutely necessary.
The principles add that human life must be respected and injuries reduced as much as possible, in addition to providing the injured with swift medical treatment.
The use of force should also be equivalent to the kind of crime committed and the police forces’ mission.
EIPR said that it has testimonies and footage proving that police forces used Molotov cocktails, rocks, knives and swords, which they aren’t authorized to use in dealing with violent protests.
A central security officer who preferred to remain anonymous told EIPR that the officers didn’t have orders to throw rocks at the protesters, adding that this came as a reaction to the protesters’ attack on the officers.
He said that only a few officers were authorized to use tear gas bombs to protect the interior ministry from being attacked.
The officer added that some officers attempted to negotiate with the protesters to leave the premises but they refused.
EIPR concluded that police forces used excessive amounts of tear gas bombs at close range, which resulted in severe burns and wounds.
“Tear gas bombs should be shot in the air and not towards the protesters,” read the statement.
Ali said she saw one protester suffering from severe burns to his face and back due to being too close to a tear gas bomb.
Lobna Darwish, one of the protesters, said she saw a teenager being hit in the face with a tear gas bomb.
Mahmoud, another protester, said he saw a 14-year-old boy being hit in his chest with a tear gas bomb, adding that he rushed him to an ambulance in the square, where the paramedic told him that the boy had already died.
However EIPR couldn’t confirm the incident.
According to eye witnesses, the officers used microphones on top of their trucks to curse at and threaten the protesters. The officers also used insulting hand gestures and threatened protesters with swords.
Activist Salma Said told EIPR that police forces intended to provoke the protesters, who responded by throwing rocks at them.
Several protesters stated that they suffered from injuries to their backs, which indicates that they were attacked by police forces while they were withdrawing from the scene.
Hisham Gamal, a family member of one of the martyrs, said that the police aimed at the upper half of the body while shooting at protesters with pellets.
The Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned the referral of blogger Loay Nagati, 21, to military prison for 15 days, pending investigations into his involvement in the clashes.
Nagati was referred to military prosecution when he was detained and was not accompanied by a lawyer, in violation of his basic rights, according to the statement issued by ANHRI on Monday.
His charge sheet includes disturbing public security and attacking security forces on duty. Nagati was referred to military prison hours after his detainment.
A student at the faculty of computer science, Nagati suffers from heart problems and his family is facing difficulty delivering his medication to military prison, said ANHRI.
According to the statement at least 10,000 civilians have been subjected to military trials since the outbreak of the January 25 protests.
“This is a clear violation of human rights, which states that civilians must be tried in front of normal courts, not unjust courts,” the statement read.
ANHRI called on SCAF to release Nagati and retry all the civilians who were tried by military courts in civilian courts.
The official fact-finding committee criticized authorities for the lack of transparency in announcing the whereabouts of those detainees and referring them to military courts and prisons.