Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1139, 14 - 20 March 2013
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1139, 14 - 20 March 2013

Ahram Weekly

Determining the cause of death

The credibility of the Forensic Medicine Authority has yet to be restored, reports Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

On 10 March prosecution authorities formed a committee comprising five university professors specialised in forensic medicine to investigate the death of activist Mohamed Al-Guindi. The committee is headed by Magda Al-Karadawi, the acting chair of the Forensic Medicine Authority (FMA).

Al-Karadawi’s report contradicted the findings of an earlier forensic examination, submitted by Ihsan Georgi, the former head of FMA, which claimed Al-Guindi had dies as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident.

“A thorough examination into Al-Guindi’s death showed signs on his body of electric shocks and strangulation. He had three broken ribs, a cracked skull and had suffered a brain haemorrhage,” said Al-Karadawi.

The families of protesters killed during demonstrations since the 25 January Revolution have repeatedly complained that FMA reports consistently failed to mention gunshot wounds or clear signs of torture on the bodies of the victims. Many martyrs’ families say they have been pressured to accept the forensic reports simply to secure the release for burial of the victims.

The case of Al-Guindi, who disappeared on 28 January from Tahrir Square while protesting against President Mohamed Morsi, and who was discovered a week later in a coma in hospital, has reignited the controversy over the activities of the FMA. Al-Guindi, a member of the popular current, died a few days after he was located. His family and friends refused to accept the FMA’s report, which concluded he died after being hit by a car, pointing to evidence of sustained torture on his body.

The FMA’s credibility was in tatters following the death of Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian beaten to death in the streets of Alexandria in broad daylight only for his family to be told after forensic examination that he had died after swallowing a plastic packet of narcotics. Public revulsion at Said’s murder and the subsequent cover-up fed into the anger that eventually toppled Hosni Mubarak. Since Said’s death there have been a host of high profile cases — including Sayed Belal, Essam Ali Atta, journalist Al-Husseini Abu Deif and Al-Guindi’s — in which the victims appear to have been killed by security forces.

The Press Syndicate has submitted a petition to Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdallah requesting the newly formed committee investigate the death of Abu Deif who was killed while covering clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi outside the presidential palace last December for Al-Fagr newspaper.

“We want the newly formed committee to prepare a new report about the actual cause of Abu Deif’s death,” says Press Syndicate undersecretary Gamal Fahmi.

Alaa Abdel-Halim, a doctor who used to work for the FMA, points out that Georgi was appointed chief medical examiner immediately after the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak, replacing Ahmed Al-Sebaai, responsible for the report that attempted to cover up the real cause of Khaled Said’s death.

Georgi’s appointment coincided with clashes in which hundreds of people were killed under the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces between February 2011 and June 2012.

“In most cases forensic examination found that the deaths were due to live ammunition. Vexed army generals insisted repeatedly that security forces were not using live ammunition to disperse protesters. Political activists and human rights personnel are once again sceptical over the integrity of the authority’s reports which they see as being politically influenced,” says Abdel-Halim.

The FMA is one of the Justice Ministry’s 22 branches. Hafez Abu Seada, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR), argues that forensic reports need to be conducted by an organisation independent of the executive.

“Everyone knows that forensic medicine, under both the Mubarak regime and the current one, has lost all credibility. The notorious case of Khaled Said showed clearly how forensic reports are twisted to serve political imperatives.”

“The police continue to hide their crimes with the help of the FMA. It is almost impossible to convict a police officer of torture,” says Abu Seada.

According to a report issued by EOHR on the second anniversary of the revolution, there are dozens of attested cases of torture within police stations. The report concluded that nothing has changed in the way the police behave since Mubarak’s overthrow, whether in terms of administrative structures, decision-making, supervision of police performance or the reform and removal of leaders and personnel responsible for the torture and killing. It stressed that only two police officers have been successfully prosecuted for the deaths of more than 800 protesters killed during the 2011 revolution while over 100 officers have been acquitted.

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