Egypt: Police continues to use lethal weapons during demonstrations
|Publisher||International Federation for Human Rights|
|Publication Date||7 March 2013|
|Cite as||International Federation for Human Rights, Egypt: Police continues to use lethal weapons during demonstrations, 7 March 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/513dd1822.html [accessed 18 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
Last Update 7 March 2013
The civil disobedience that has been ongoing for the past two weeks took a deadly turn on March 3rd as clashes outside of Port Said's main police station left 6 dead, including two policemen, according to the Ministry of Health. The causes of death for the 3 civilians were attributed to skull fractures and brain hemorrhage after a head injury due to tear gas on March 5th .The Ministry of Interior announced that two Central Security Forces conscripts (CSF) died due to gun shot wounds. FIDH is highly alarmed by the recurrence of the episodes of deadly violence in Port Said, and calls for an immediate, independent and impartial investigation into these latest events.
Protesters had gathered in front of the Port Said main police station in protest to the latest decision by the Minister of Interior to transfer 39 prisoners, to Wadi Natroun prison in Beheira governorate. The transfer ordered by the Minister of Interior concerned 21 defendants awaiting the Court's confirmation of the death sentence for the Port Said stadium case. The Court is set to deliver the ruling against the remaining 52 defendants including 9 police officers on March 9th. Police forces then responded with heavy use of tear gas and gunshots. Clashes continued all week outside the Port Said governorate.
The Ministry of Health reported more than 1000 people injured including security forces, between March 3rd and 6th . Clashes also erupted in downtown Cairo on March 3rd and have been sporadically ongoing since. In Mansoura, around 120km northeast of Cairo, a CSF truck allegedly ran over a protester on March 1st, and clashes subsequently escalated leading to the injury of at least 60 individuals. While in Mahalla, in the middle of the Nile Delta, police officers also clashed with protesters, firing tear gas on March 6th.
"This is not the first time security forces respond with an excessive use of force", declared Souhayr Belhassen, FIDH President. "We are seeing a continuation of the Mubarak-era police regime, with no intention to either reform the security forces sector, nor investigate the abuses perpetrated by security forces during demonstrations" added Mrs. Belhassen.
FIDH member and partner organizations in Egypt, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) and the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) amongst other organizations documented the use of lethal force by security forces during the violent episode that began on January 26th 2013 . The organizations also reported arbitrary detention, torture and irregularities in the investigation procedures, where those investigated were mainly protesters.
While FIDH welcomes the decision taken by the Minister of Justice on February 18th to appoint an investigative judge into the January 26th clashes, it is dismayed by the fact that no police officer was called for interrogation as of today. FIDH reiterates its call to the Egyptian authorities to duly investigate abuses perpetrated by security forces, and to make the report of the fact-finding commission public .
Furthermore, FIDH reiterates its previous recommendation to the Egyptian authorities to amend law no. 156 of 1964 which grants the Minister of Interior the right to order the use of live ammunition for the dispersement of protests and sit-ins .
Yet the Shura Council is currently discussing a draft law submitted by the government on the right to protest which is far from meeting international human rights standards. Article 17 of the draft law would allow security forces to violently disperse protests whenever they are considered to "disrupt public order". This would leave the Ministry of Interior solely up to decide on which grounds a protest shall be dispersed. Furthermore, Article 15 and 16 set up even further restrictions on protesters, excluding protesting after 10 pm, or chanting slogans that are deemed "insulting to state institutions", and requiring prior notification to the police. Considering the usual negative approach to the right to peaceful protest and assembly demonstrated by the Ministry of Interior over the years, one can logically wonder whether this latest provision will not be systematically misused so as to prevent gatherings and demonstrations, and thus contradicting one of the main demands of the Egyptian revolution.
"The Shura Council should not adopt a law that aims at criminalizing the right to protest rather than protecting it" declared Belhassen.
FIDH calls upon the Egyptian authorities to uphold its international legal obligations under Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on refraining from putting restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly .
 500 injured on March 3rd, with at least 16 injured due to live ammunition, and 123 injured on March 4th, , 227 on March 5th, and 157 on March 6th
 CIHRS, "Egypt: Officials Turn Blind Eye to Port Said Police Abuses Witnesses Describe Port Said Killings by Police", 2 March 2013, http://www.cihrs.org/?p=6021&lang=en.
 FIDH, "Egypt: Post revolution president following in Mubarak's footsteps?", 12 February 2013, http://www.fidh.org/Egypt-Post-revolution-president-12811.
 FIDH, "Egypt's Revolutionary road, one year on: still awaiting respect for human rights and democratic reforms", 9 February 2012, http://www.fidh.org/Egypt-s-Revolutionary-road-one.
 ICCPR, Article 21, http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/instree/b3ccpr.htm.