The undersigned human rights organizations categorically condemn the acts of violence committed principally by security forces – which fall under the jurisdiction of the Egyptian Interior Ministry – on Saturday, January 25, 2014, the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. This violence, which specifically targeted protests and other gatherings held to express their lack of support for the current authorities, was indisputably premeditated and systematic. As such, no excuses – such as breaches of the law by those targeted by said violence – can be made to justify it. Even as security forces cleared the way for marches in support of the current regime, they confronted with intense violence any who attempted to gather to express opposition to the authorities. Indeed, while police protected marches and demonstrations held in support of the security and armed forces, police forces only meters away used teargas, birdshot, and even live ammunition against gatherings of the opposition. This contrast clearly reveals the intent to repress the right to peaceful assembly whenever exercised in opposition of the current regime, including the determination to deliberately harass and even kill such demonstrators in disregard of the law.
Despite the lack of credible information regarding the total number of those killed by the violence seen in multiple governorates across Egypt, including, prominently, Cairo, available estimates confirm the deaths of at least 60 individuals, most of whom died after being wounded by live ammunition used by security forces to disperse demonstrations. This use of live ammunition by security forces represents a clear violation of the law and blatantly disregards the international standards, which require that the minimum force necessary must be used to disperse protests, with law enforcement officials resorting to increased levels of force gradually and only as strictly necessary. Fundamentally, protests may only be dispersed at all in cases where there is a compelling reason according to the law to do so.
Similarly, there currently no way to know how many people were injured in Saturday’s events. Sources within the security establishment have confirmed the arrests of over 1,000 demonstrators across Egypt, including the detention of numerous individuals from their homes. A number of these detainees were interrogated after representatives of the public prosecution visited police stations where they were being detained – without a legal justification for doing so. Further, the breaches of the law committed by security personnel and officers in the Interior Ministry include attacks on the lawyers who tried to contact the detainees or obtain information on them; some of these lawyers were beaten and received death threats while others were arrested and detained for several hours. In multiple cases, lawyers were prevented from entering and attending investigations with the detainees, despite their being present in front of the police stations. This represents a further violation of the procedural code as well as of the guarantees stipulated in the new constitution – passed only days ago – for conducting legal investigations.
Through its continued decision to allow the police to act without restraint against those who oppose the authorities, its refusal to acknowledge any of the restrictions to its power imposed by the constitution or the law, and its intentional violation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to Egyptian citizens under international conventions and treaties, the current regime is pushing Egypt towards a spiral of violence and counter-violence and undermining any possible basis for constructing a secure, stable future for the country. Even as Egypt is witnessing increased acts of terrorism by groups who espouse the use of violence as a means to reach their political ends, the security apparatus is itself also setting an example of how to use violence to achieve its political aims. Indeed, there is currently no evidence that the security establishment has taken any effective measures to confront terrorism. Instead, the security authorities use the language of “counter-terrorism” to justify the violations that they continue to commit against peaceful demonstrations.
The state’s monopoly on force throughout the world is based on the condition that the state respect the law and that it uphold the rights of all citizens equally before the law. It is thus extremely dangerous when the state begins to justify illegal actions taken by its security apparatus as being part of a “fight against terrorism”, as this undermines the most important principle upon which the democratic state is built: the rule of law.
The undersigned human rights organizations reiterate their condemnation of the use of violence by any party to achieve political ends. We call upon the current political authorities to establish an urgent investigation to be carried out by an unbiased, independent party into the acts of violence witnessed on the third anniversary of the Egyptian revolution. We demand that those responsible for spilling the blood of innocent protestors, as well as for other serious crimes and violations, be brought to justice. We call for the immediate release of all individuals who were detained merely for having exercised their right to assemble and demonstrate or for their peaceful political activities more generally. We further call for an investigation into the violations of the law which marked the process of their arrest, detention, and interrogation without the presence of lawyers.
The undersigned organizations repeat their demand that the authorities renounce the repressive policies that they have continually and increasingly adopted. We reaffirm that a state based on repressive police methods will never be able to restore stability or security to the country; rather, such strategies will only push a return to stability further out of reach. The Egyptian people who took to the streets on January 25 three years ago still seek to attain the rights which have been denied to them for so long, and they deserve more than a return to subjugation by the police state against which they revolted three years ago. Egyptians have undeniably paid a high price in order to attain a life of dignity, which is their fundamental right. An adequate response to the demands and aspirations of the Egyptian people is the only guarantee of stability for any political system that may come to power; ignoring Egyptians’ demands and aspirations will surely have disastrous consequences, upending any political regime in power and swiftly pushing Egypt towards chaos and incalculable perils.
- Nazra for Feminist Studies
- Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
- Arab Network for Human Rights Information
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Hisham mubarak law center
- Misryon Against Religious Discrimination
- Egyptian initiative for personal rights (EIPR)
- The Egyptian Center on Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)