CAIRO: Amnesty International has labeled the legal action taken in response to the Duweiqa rockslide that killed approximately 119 people in 2008 “a missed opportunity" to ensure that those living at risk in Egypt’s informal settlements receive appropriate attention and aid in the future.
On Tuesday, the prison sentences given to the vice governor of Cairo and a local authority employee — both found guilty of causing the deaths and injuries in the Duweiqa rockslide through their own negligence — were overturned by an appeals court. The two Cairene officials’ original sentence was for five years imprisonment.
The appeals court also commuted the sentences for six other officials from three years imprisonment to one year.
In a statement issued in May after the eight officials had first been convicted, Philip Luther, the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program at the time, called the prosecution “a major step towards justice for the victims of the Duweiqa rockslide.”
"This ruling provides some answers — but not the full truth — to the survivors of the rockslide," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, the current deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program, said of the latest verdict.
"It is a missed opportunity to ensure [that] the right to an effective remedy is guaranteed for those living at risk in Egypt’s informal settlements, and to ensure that officials act promptly to protect the lives of thousands of families living in Egypt’s ‘unsafe areas.’"
Amnesty International says that a public prosecution investigation found that local officials had been warned about the danger of a rockslide by expert reports in 2007 and 2008, and that the reports had recommended residents be evacuated.
Amnesty International says that according to the Egyptian authorities “there are 35 ‘unsafe areas’ in Egypt that require immediate intervention to safeguard people’s lives, 16 of which are in Cairo, mostly in Mansheyet Nasser and Cairo’s informal settlements. Plans to deal with these areas are developed without genuine consideration with [sic] the affected communities.”
"Only decisive action by Egyptian authorities in consultation with communities at risk can avert further disaster," said Sahraoui.