Egypt: Morsi needs to end army and police impunity- two new reports
Posted: 02 October 2012
Women protesters in particular have been singled out for abuse by the military
President Mohamed Morsi should tackle the bloody legacy of police and army abuses in Egypt and guarantee that no one is above the law, Amnesty International said today (2 October), as it launched two major new reports at a press conference in Cairo this morning.
The reports document unlawful killings, excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment against protesters by both the military and the police, and are based on first-hand investigations in the country during the rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
In the first of the reports, Brutality unpunished and unchecked: Egypt’s military kill and torture protesters with impunity, Amnesty highlights a clear pattern of human rights violations during the SCAF’s 16-month rule.
Focusing on three key incidents - the October 2011 Maspero protests when 27 mainly Coptic Christian protesters were killed, events outside the Cabinet Offices last December when 17 protesters died, and the Abbaseya sit-in in May when up to 12 people were killed - the report describes in detail how the army acted completely outside the law. The report also accuses military courts of failing to provide redress for the victims of these incidents, with civilian investigators also unable or unwilling to indict a single officer for their crimes.
The Amnesty report describes how male and female protesters have been subjected to severe beatings, given electric shocks, sexually threatened and abused by troops at these key flashpoint incidents. Women protesters in particular were singled out for abuse. In the aftermath, thousands of people were tried or still face unfair trial before military courts. The SCAF has offered excuses for its forces’ behaviour but not allowed independent investigations.
In July, President Morsi set up a committee to investigate all killings and injuries of protesters during the period of military rule. However, the committee was given limited time to produce a report. Amnesty believes it should be given sufficient time, resources and power to summon witnesses and officials, and gain access to information to help identify the perpetrators.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Unless the soldiers responsible for killing, maiming and abusing protesters are put on trial in front of an independent, civilian court, there is no hope that the victims will see justice or that soldiers will fear punishment if they repeat such crimes.
Meanwhile, in a second report released today, Agents of repression: Egypt’s police and the case for reform, Amnesty shows how Egypt’s police forces have also enjoyed total impunity despite committing numerous human rights violations.
Focusing on three key events - police violence during clashes with protesters at Mohamed Mahmoud Street near the Interior Ministry last November, police abuses during protests in the same street following the killings of Al-Ahly football club supporters in February, and violence during clashes in front of Nile City Towers in Cairo in August - Amnesty’s report highlights a pattern of brutal police responses to protests, as well as the torture of detainees.
The report shows how Egypt’s riot police have routinely responded to peaceful protests with excessive and lethal force, including the disproportionate use of tear gas; the firing of shotgun pellets, rubber bullets and live ammunition into crowds; and beatings and arbitrary arrest.
Tear gas and shotgun ammunition were among the US-made weaponry supplied to Egypt’s police forces before and after the country’s 2011 revolution, and Amnesty has called for a halt to all transfers of tear gas and small arms (including shotguns and light weapons), until adequate safeguards are put in place by the Egyptian authorities to prevent further violations by security forces while policing protests.
Meanwhile Amnesty is calling for sweeping reform of Egypt’s two main police forces - the Central Security Forces (CSF), widely known as the riot police, and the General Investigations Police, Egypt’s national police force. In July Amnesty sent a detailed memorandum to President Morsi urging him to put reform of the police and security institutions at the heart of his new government’s agenda.
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui added:
“The endemic abuses by the police have continued since the uprising. The police need root and branch reform to eradicate entrenched abusive behaviour, including thorough vetting of current officers, suspension pending investigations of those accused of violations, and independent civilian oversight bodies.
“The different interior ministers that headed the police force since last year’s uprising have repeatedly announced their commitment to reforming the police and respecting human rights, but so far reforms have merely scratched the surface. Instead, they have tried to restore emergency-like legislation in the name of restoring security.
"Major reforms are needed to rebuild public trust in Egypt’s police forces, whose brutality was one of the main triggers of the uprising."
Download the reports
Human rights violations by police forces under SCAF rule
Impunity for police committing human rights violations