Victims Seek Accountability: Testimonies from Egypt and Tunisia

The first session of the conference presented testimonies of victims of demonstrations-related violence in Egypt and Tunisia. Ziad Abdel Tawab, deputy director of CIHRS, introduced the explaining that transitional justice must address two concerns: the violations of civil and international laws; and the spiritual pains incurred by those both directly and indirectly harmed by the events which occurred before, during, and after the revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, and other countries in the region.

"We are confident democracy will not take place unless the experiences of the families of the victims are taken into account," he concluded.

Lamyaa Farhani, lawyer and chairwoman of the Association of the Families of the Revolution's Martyrs and Wounded shared the story of her brother, Annis Farhani, who was killed during the revolution in Tunisia.

There was no cause, no reason for the excessive use of force against the demonstrators, Lamyaa Farhani began. "It was as if they were hunting birds." Her brother was part of a demonstration January 13 in Tunisia, which began peacefully and ended as a massacre perpetrated by the Tunisian security forces.

She described in depth the reprisal killings which took place throughout the revolution, stories the Association of the Families of the Revolution's Martyrs and Wounded are working to compile. These included launching tear gas on peaceful demonstrations, meeting places, and even a public bathing place; attacking funeral processions; and registering the names of injured in hospitals for the purpose of detaining and torturing demonstrators once they were released from care.

But the biggest concern is that currently, those injured or killed during the revolution in Tunisia are not being paid adequate tribute, which is their right, Farhani emphasized.

She closed by discussing mechanisms to address this concern. One of the most important facets of transitional justice is accountability, she stressed. The trials, reparations programs, security sector reform, memorialization efforts, must all be done in a manner to honor the needs and experiences of the families harmed.

"Let the honor go to the real martyrs," she urged. "They have carved their names in blood on the history of this country, in the name of freedom and peace."

Vivian Magdy, fiancee of Maikel Mosaad, who was killed by the Egyptian security forces in the Maspero Massacre on September 10, 2011, shared her experience of a violent crackdown on a demonstration which took place nine months after the revolution in Egypt, and her efforts to hold those who killed her fiancee accountable.

"I came here to testify because I made a promise to bring Michael back," Magdy began her testimony. Both she and here fiancee were part of the demonstrations denouncing the violence between Copts and Muslims.

It began as a peaceful demonstration, and then suddenly we felt like we were in a war, she recalled. Security forces began closing in and beating the participants of the demonstration. People were being killed the same way there were being killed before, during the revolution. Her fiancee was beaten severely, and died on the way to the hospital.

Since that day, Magdy has fought to get her story told, to testify before the security forces about what happened and who is responsible. Accountability for the past must include what happened under the prior regime, during the revolution, and what continues to occur during this period of transition, she contended. She thanked the conference coordinators and participants for opening a forum for this dialogue on accountability, and asked the participants and the world never to forget what happened.

In the session that followed, Marcie Mersky, program office director at ICTJ, and Nick Koumjian, a lawyer specializing in international criminal law, continued the discussion by introducing comparative experiences from Latin America, Africa, and Europe, with an emphasis on truth seeking and criminal prosecutions.