Following the "million-man march" held last Friday, 18 November 2011, Egyptian Central Security Forces used massive amounts of tear gas and live ammunition against peaceful protesters in an attempt to suppress the demonstrations. Similar repressive violence followed in different cities resulting in the extrajudicial execution of 33 protestors and the injuring of hundreds.
The Alkarama Foundation denounces this excessive use of force which is in violation of national and international law. Alkarama believes that the lack of comprehensive trials of all members of the security forces responsible for the hundreds of deaths during the 25 January Revolution, and their continued impunity as they continue to work at the Ministry of Interior, has being a crucial element in encouraging security forces to continue using such violent and inappropriate methods.
Early last week, political parties in Egypt called for a peaceful protest in Tahrir Square to demand the withdrawal of a proposed law, known as the “Selmy Document” after the Deputy Prime Minister Ali Al-Selmy who proposed it, which would have modified the parliament’s right to scrutiny of the Army. The protest also aimed to call on the Military Council to hand over power to a civilian authority within the time scheduled in the Constitutional Declaration made following February’s revolution. However, Central Security Forces attacked protesters including some injured during the 25 January Revolution, using excessive force to try to put down the demonstration.
Rather than repress the protests, the security forces actions led to a massive increase in the size of the crowds, as thousands of activists and protesters headed to Tahrir Square. Many protests also took place in the different governorates of Egypt supporting the protesters in Tahrir.
Security Forces responded to this by targeting the heads and eyes of protesters using live ammunition, rubber bullets and shotguns, killing and injuring many. Military Police and the army joined security forces which failed to break the demonstrations. They all brutally attacked the protesters using tear gas, rubber bullets and shotguns.
Following the withdrawal of the Military Police due to the escalating situation, the Central Security Forces continued using excessive measures against the protesters, particularly in Mohamed Mahmoud street near Tahrir Square, leading to further deaths.
Alkarama highlights that the deadly clashes in Tahrir Square since 19 November 2011 demonstrate the Interior Ministry's failure to bring about the promised changes in how their forces deal with peaceful protests and that the treatment of these protesters violates rights of the Egyptian people, especially the right to Freedom of Expression and right to Peaceful Assembly. Alkarama fears that the Military Council and Egyptian government continue to promise to respect human rights to the international community while violating these very rights in the actions it carries out at home.
Therefore, it is important to bring those responsible, including senior officials at the Interior Ministry - up to the Interior Minister himself - as well as members of the military police and other security forces, to trial in order that they be held accountable for their actions and to bring an end to the policy of impunity. A clear timeframe should be set within which to accomplish this.
Alkarama has been following the situation in Egypt with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and other UN human rights mechanisms, informing them of the violations against unarmed protesters in the aim that these be monitored and denounced.
The image of the Egyptian authorities is at stake, as the repressive policies implemented today resemble far too much those of the state which fell in February 2011: the attacks on civil society organizations who are accused of working for the interests of foreign organizations; the attempts to tarnish the reputation of those taking part in peaceful protests; the use of vehicles to run over protesters leading to deaths such as in the “Maspero events”; arresting activists and bringing them to trial before Military courts; and finally the ongoing clashes which started four days ago. All this emphasizes that the culture of repression continues during this transition period.
Alkarama stresses that any steps taken for a political solution will not be enough unless immediate measures are taken to hold accountable all those responsible for this repression; to ensure redress for all victims; to implement comprehensive reforms of the Ministry of Interior and security bodies such as the drafting of legal and practical regulations for its work; and finally, to ensure the opening of prompt, impartial and thourough investigations for all the crimes and violations committed by all security forces since February 2011.