Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi on Thursday issued a decree appointing a fact-finding committee to investigate the deaths of protesters in last year's demonstrations. The committee is made up of 16 members [AP report] including judges, a state prosecutor, a general, a police commander and six representatives of victims' families. They are charged with reopening files related to the deaths of nearly 1,000 protesters in the uprising last year that led to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak [JURIST news archive]. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] challenged whether the committee would have the power to investigate the actions of the Egyptian military with an HRW official stating, "[t]his committee could go some way toward pushing for accountability for excessive use of force ... but I don't see it as having the capacity to recommend punishment of military officers." The committee must report its findings to Morsi within two months.
Egypt's post-Mubarak political climate has been fractious. Last month, Amnesty International [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] Morsi to end the pattern of human rights abuses committed by former president Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) [Al Jazeera backgrounder]. Earlier last month an Egyptian court struck down [JURIST report] a government decree that gave the military broad power to arrest people. Also last month HRW expressed concern [JURIST report] that the Egyptian military's expansive power is a threat to human rights. Two weeks ago, the SCAF announced [JURIST report] that it would transfer power to Morsi by the end of June. Earlier in June Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court [official website] dissolved the Egyptian Parliament [JURIST report] after finding that one-third of its members were elected illegally. JURIST contributor Haider Ala Hamoudi recently opined [JURIST op-ed] that the Egyptian high court's decision to dissolve parliament may lead to a power imbalance between the three branches of government that a strong executive could exploit.