Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Egypt: Excessive use of force against protesters

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 29 July 2013
Cite as Article 19, Egypt: Excessive use of force against protesters, 29 July 2013, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis 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.

ARTICLE 19 is alarmed by the violence against protesters carried out by the Egyptian security forces over the weekend, resulting in a high number of deaths and serious injuries, and calls on the Interim Government to respect its international human rights obligations, including the obligation to respect and protect the rights to freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of assembly and association.

"The overthrow by the army of President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July has so far resulted in the death of more than 200 people, most of whom died as a result of clashes between protesters and the security forces, which has further deepened Egypt's human rights crisis, already in a dismal state under President Morsi," said Dr Agnes Callamard, Executive director of ARTICLE 19.

"The Egyptian interim authorities must enable protesters to express their opinions freely and to demonstrate peacefully. The actions of the security forces, including the police and the army, must be swiftly, impartially and thoroughly investigated and those who have used excessive force must be brought to justice," she added.

According to news reports, more than 70 pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters were killed on 27 July and over 60 protesters were seriously injured by the Egyptian riot police, supported by plain-clothed security personnel. Most of the killed protesters were targeted on their chests, heads or necks, evidence that lethal force was intentional.

The killings, mainly caused by snipers firing live ammunition from nearby buildings, took place in the early morning of Saturday, 27 July 2013, when the Muslim Brotherhood protesters clashed with the security forces. The clashes happened after the protesters attempted to expand their sit-in camp from Rabea al-Adawiya mosque in Nasr City Square in eastern Cairo into a main boulevard. The Brotherhood supporters have been protesting since the army removed from power the elected President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July. The protesters demand that all those that have been removed from power by the army and subsequently imprisoned are released from detention and reinstated.

A few hours before the violence on 27 July, Interim President Adly Mansour had announced that "the state had to impose order by all force and decisiveness." Subsequently, on Sunday 28 July he gave Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi the power to grant the military the right to arrest civilians.

"The appalling use of violence by the security forces and total impunity for doing so, the violations of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, the censorship of the media: the legacy of the President Mubarak regime: these were never weakened under President Morsi and they are now seemingly at the heart of the political and military strategy to tackle the new crisis," Callamard added.

ARTICLE 19 reminds the Egyptian authorities that the inappropriate, excessive, or unlawful use of force by law enforcement authorities violates fundamental human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

International standards, such as the United Nations' Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, requires that, "in the dispersal of assemblies that are unlawful but non-violent, law enforcement officials shall avoid the use of force or, where that is not practicable, shall restrict such force to the minimum extent necessary."

The Basic Principles also stipulate that, "in the dispersal of violent assemblies, law enforcement officials may use firearms only when less dangerous means are not practicable and only to the minimum extent necessary."

Further, law enforcement officials should not use firearms against persons, "except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent the perpetration of a particularly serious crime involving grave threat to life, to arrest a person presenting such a danger and resisting their authority, or to prevent his or her escape, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

Moreover, in the cases of unauthorised use of force or when more force is used than is necessary in the circumstances, law enforcement officials must face civil and/or criminal liability, as well as disciplinary action.

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