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Egypt must curb excessive force by security forces

‘The recourse to violence by some protesters does not give a blank cheque to the police to shoot and beat protesters’ - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

Eyewitness accounts collected by Amnesty International in Egypt point to the unnecessary use of lethal force by the security forces during a weekend of clashes with demonstrators, the organisation said this evening.

After three days of violence that has claimed at least 45 lives and led to more than 1,000 injured, Amnesty called for end to excessive force by the security forces.

A researcher from Amnesty investigating killings in Suez has collected disturbing eyewitness accounts of excessive force. The security forces breached Egyptian legislation which, while falling short of international standards, sets some limits on the use of firearms by police, including requiring the issuing of audible warnings and aiming at the feet.

At least nine people, including one member of the security forces, died in Suez on Friday evening. Protesters told Amnesty that shortly after thousands of women, men and Children's rights concluded a march to Suez’s security directorate, security forces fired tear gas reportedly attempting to prevent protesters from storming the building. Violence escalated after a member of the security forces, believed to be a conscript with the riot police, was seriously injured - hit in the neck by a flare believed to have been fired by a protester. Protesters said riot police “panicked” and started shooting randomly and chasing fleeing protesters, leading to eight further deaths, according to medical sources, mostly in the vicinity of the nearby governorate building.  

On Saturday (26 January), forensic pathologists arrived in Suez from Cairo to conduct post-mortem examinations in the presence of members of the military prosecution. The head of forensics Ihsan Kamil Georges was quoted on the website of the state Al-Ahram newspaper as saying Suez protesters were shot by live ammunition, in some instances at close range and from behind.

Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:

“The first protesters to die by police bullets in the ‘25 January Revolution’ were in Suez.  It is tragic that exactly two years later not only has nobody been punished for their deaths, but more protesters have been unlawfully killed by security forces.

“As more protests continue today to commemorate the bloodiest day of the ‘25 January Revolution’, the Egyptian authorities must issue clear orders to those policing protests to respect freedom of peaceful assembly and avoid unnecessary or excessive force.

“They must make absolutely clear that those that use arbitrary and excessive force will be brought to justice.”
“The recourse to violence by some protesters does not give a blank cheque to the police to shoot and beat protesters. All this comes against the backdrop of decades in which the security forces have operated with impunity - in some cases getting away with murder.”

Amnesty is gathering testimony on the use of unnecessary and excessive force by security forces as the unrest continues, including on the following cases:

*Mostafa Mohamed Aid, 16, who was fatally shot in the kidney while riding on the back of a motorcycle, according to his friend Ahmed Fawzi who was riding the motorcycle
*Mahmoud Nabil, 25, who was shot in his car at the sea-front away from the confrontations between police and protesters, according to local activists in Suez
*Apparent shootings at the entrance of a building on “Martyrs’ Street” in Suez
*Cases of members of the security forces reportedly chasing protesters into the Suez General Hospital and firing randomly

According to local activists, six people, including one member of the security forces, were arrested in connection to the violence, while the Public Prosecutor has announced investigations.

Meanwhile, Amnesty is calling for investigations into deaths in Port Said in protests that followed death sentences being announced for 21 defendants accused of responsibility for the deaths of 73 people during a football match last year. Yesterday Egypt’s Ministry of Interior announced that 120 people were under arrest in connection with the unrest across the country.

Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all cases as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment and a violation of the right to life.

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