Eihab Boraie delves into the dark recent history of Egypt's forensic departments, finding a pattern of blaming the victim or denying blatant evidence...
Egypt’s body, mind and soul are in critical condition after leaving too many open wounds unstitched for far too long. After a long battle, Om el Donia would like nothing more than to heal, yet it cannot because the same people who are supposed to protect her are the same ones who put her in this condition. Yearning for justice against her abusers, Egypt is told to trust forensic officials to investigate and provide the evidence that will help the healing process. However, instead of providing the stitches to close multiple lacerations, the forensic investigations often conclude that the best remedy is to pour more salt on them.
Forensic Authorities Explaining How Security Never Fails to Protect
After the 2012 Port Said Stadium disaster that claimed the lives of over 70, fans were banned from attending football matches. After a three year long hiatus, the fans returned, but the security updates were slovenly and minimal. The new measures implemented in stadiums across the nation included a narrow, barbed wire metal cage that all spectators had to pass through to enter matches as seen at the Air Defence Stadium in February 2015. Eager fans, many allegedly without tickets, began to swell to dangerous levels prior to kick-off, and looking to gain control of the situation, security officials in their infinite wisdom fired tear gas into the confined mayhem. Predictably enough, a stampede ensued, the cage came crashing down, and when the gas settled, as many as 29 lives were needlessly lost. Embarrassingly, there is still no consensus on the exact number deaths; this inability to release accurate death tolls after tragedies is a degrading national problem. Hisham Abdel Hamid, a medical official in the Forensic Medicine Authority, claims that “all deaths that took place in the Air Defence Stadium case were due to excessive shoving between the fans.” Multiple eyewitness testimonies and previous official statements identified the tear gas as instigating the stampede and as such, the disaster was the result of a clear failure in security.
Forensic Authorities Explaining What Kind of Anuses They Are Looking For
In present day Egypt, authorities seem very concerned with what is going in the bedrooms of consenting adults. Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took power, a noticeable increase in the crackdown of ‘debauchery’ has swept the nation. From raiding bathhouses to arresting ‘pranksters’ for making a video of a (fake) gay wedding, the security apparatus acts as though debauchery-engaging individuals are as much a threat to the state as terrorists. Making the crackdown even more convoluted is the trifling fact that Egypt doesn’t actually have a law against homosexuality. Dr. Maged Louis, deputy director of the Justice Ministry’s Forensic Medical Authority, as well as the chief of forensic medicine for the Cairo Police district, believes he can tell a gay anus from a straight one. Speaking to Buzzfeed, this supposed “anal expert” claims “the shape of the hole will change,” and that the anus, “won’t be normal anymore and will look like the female vagina.” To verify his suspicions, this anal examiner puts individuals in a degrading position as he probes around explaining that, “a normal man’s anus can’t take more than one joint of the small finger.” This shockingly absurd test ultimately proves nothing as both international human rights campaigners and medical experts dismiss Louis’ anal checklist as having “no medical basis” and being “categorically not true.” Not only are anal exams inhumane, inaccurate and unreliable but they end up having no sway on the court’s sentence. In the case of the alleged eight men who created a fake gay wedding video, forensic official Hisham Abdel Hamid report claims the “the seven suspects have never had sex with other men, but that the eighth suspect, who played the role of the groom in the alleged video, didn't show up for the physical inspection.” Despite his assessment, the court still found the men guilty on debauchery charges, sentencing them to three years in prison, reduced upon appeal to a year. While in the case of the 21 men arrested in the infamous gay bathhouse raid case, Hisham Abdel Hamid initially claimed that three of the 21 men were in the process of being sexually assaulted. Despite his anal findings, the court offered one of the most surprising verdicts in recent times, finding all the men not guilty of debauchery.
Forensic Authorities Explaining That Police are Incapable of Rape
Over 90% of Egyptian women have had to deal with some form of sexual harassment yet the Forensic Authorities seemingly overlook obvious evidence whenever officers are accused of rape. In late December last year, two officers were accused of raping a woman in the backseat of their patrol car. The original forensic findings claimed that there was no evidence proving the officers attempted to rape her. The two officers were then released on an insulting 1000LE ($140) bail, and after the predictable ensuing public outrage, officials rescinded their initial findings a day later. They now claimed that semen on the victim's clothes matched DNA samples from the two policemen. Sadly, this isn’t the first time that forensic officials seemingly attempt to hide police engaging in abhorrent criminal acts. Another example is the case of the alleged prison rape of a mentally-disabled girl by policemen. Unsurprisingly, the Forensic Medicine Department Spokesperson Hisham Abdel Hamid claims once again to have found no evidence that showed any signs of injuries or indications of sexual assault, even though the initial allegations were made by Giza Security service investigators.
Forensic Authorities Explaining That Police Brutality Doesn’t Exist
Nothing exemplifies the mistrust between the masses and forensic officials quite like their attempts to investigate police brutality. Considered one of the major catalysts of the January 25th uprising, the brutal beating to death of Khaled Said by officers sparked mass outrage when a photo circulated worldwide showing that the officers had left no bone unbroken. The former head of forensics, Ahmed El-Sebai, claimed that Said’s death was the result of him swallowing a plastic bag filled with marijuana, instead of the rather obvious lack of intact bones. This wound continues to bleed out even in a ‘post-revolution’ Egypt. In the 2013 case of Mohamed Gendy's death, the initial forensic report issued claimed that the 28-year old political activist and member of the Popular Current died because of injuries sustained in an alleged car accident on the 28th of January. Amid controversy following his death, Qasr El-Nil Prosecution ordered the formation of a forensic committee to examine El-Gendy’s death and issue another report. The report concluded that the late activist's body showed injuries consistent with beating and torture, however according to lawyers involved with the case, the prosecution deemed the reports advisory and not binding. "They [the authorities] are taking me back to square one," Samya Al-Sheikh, El-Gendy's mother, told Ahram Online. "They have excluded all the evidence we obtained and canceled all previous investigations… Are they trying to polish the image of the police as the expense of my son's blood?" Even more troubling than prosecutors ignoring reports is the punishing of witnesses who bravely come forward. Setting a potential toxic precedence, the prosecutor claimed that El-Gendy was at the hospital at the time the witness allegedly saw him tortured. The prosecutor threatened that the witness would be tried for "spreading false rumors harming public interest and disrupting investigations," which according to lawyer Abdel Aziz establishes a deterrent for witnesses to speak up in any future torture case. As it stands, the prosecution has designated the case as a "manslaughter misdemeanor," temporarily shelving it, as a culprit could not be identified.
Forensic Authorities Explaining That Only Protestors Kill Protestors
Countless cases of protestors attempting to have their voices heard have been killed on Egyptian streets. The number of casualties has only increased after the passing of a controversial law outlawing protests without permission, essentially giving security a license to fire on crowds with impunity. The latest martyr currently fuelling public anger is the tragic death of activist Shaimaa El-Sabbagh, who was peacefully demonstrating hoping to lay a wreath for the martyrs on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the January 25th uprising, when she was gunned down by security forces. The recurring killings of peaceful protestors is exacerbated by authority's immediate response of accusing protestors or protest infiltrators, and denying any responsibility for the tragedy before even starting an investigation. To explain the investigations findings forensics expert Hisham Abdel Hamid appeared on a news show on private television channel Sada El-Balad to claim that the reason El-Sabbagh died was because she had "no fats, so [birdshot] pellets easily penetrated her heart and lungs causing her death. It is impossible that small birdshot pellets from an eight-metre distance would kill… but this was her fate.” Any investigation that blames the victim for not eating enough Big Macs definitely needs to be questioned, and thankfully these words appear to be his last as a spokesman, as news breaks of his dismissal. The Ministry of Justice is said to be investigating the accuracy of his comments and the prosecution have announced that the officer responsible for shooting Shaimaa El-Sabbagh will faces ‘beating that led to death’ charges, while issuing a media gag order on the trial.
Egypt is broken, battered, and bruised, but not dead. If the spokesperson turns out to have a history of providing inaccurate evidence, a dismissal is not enough. Who knows how many prisoners have been put behind bars on the basis of his lousy investigations? Should they not be freed or at least granted an immediate retrial? Isn’t it time for those in power to accept responsibility when they mess up and be held to the same punishment as the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect? Give Egypt justice and its wounds will heal. Give it freedom and it will sing your praises. Give it bread and watch it jump out of its hospital bed.