Published on Amnesty International, by Geoffrey Mocki, August 16, 2013.
Egyptian security forces can’t break old habits, and now the spirit of the 2011 Uprisings is in disarray.
For the third day in a row, security forces have attacked supporters for deposed President Mohamad Morsi, some of whom are armed and have fired back. Health officials put the death toll on Wednesday at 525, but that number has surely gone higher in the two days since.
The military has imposed a State of Emergency, inspiring memories of the abuses under the Mubarak regime facilitated by the special laws of a 30-year State of Emergency … //
… Based on their findings, here are five steps that offer the best hope for Egypt’s future:
- Reign in the security forces. The use of lethal force for the purpose of dispersing protesters is not lawful. Security forces must not use firearms against persons except in defense against the imminent risk of death or serious injury.
- End sectarian violence. Amnesty International is alarmed at reports of new sectarian violence against Coptic Christians. Revenge attacks must be treated as criminal acts. The organization has documented previous instances where the security forces have failed to protect Coptic Christian communities from such attacks.
- An independent and impartial investigation of human rights abuses. Egypt’s track record of impunity and ignoring human rights abuses indicate the government and judiciary are not up to this important job. Previous investigations have failed to deliver truth and justice for the victims. One option is give free access to an investigation led by U.N. Special Procedures officials to Egypt, in particular the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
- No abuse of State of Emergency powers. Under Mubarak, the State of Emergency was used to facilitate torture, hold prisoners in incommunicado detention, try civilians before military courts and other human rights abuses with impunity. There must be no military trials of civilians, and all detainees should have judicial safeguards.
- Protect women’s rights. Women were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising, but they quickly became marginalized following Mubarak’s resignation. Since the uprising, groups both military and civilian opposed to the uprising’s goals used women’s rights as a tool to denounce its aims and to undermine popular support for human rights in general. Even key secular political parties shied away from addressing the issue. Women activists were subject to sexual assaults as a means of silencing their activism. Yet, the collapse of a third way in Egyptian politics suggests that this is a central issue. What is needed is an Egyptian government that is open to all Egyptians, a quality that neither Morsi nor the military showed much interest in.
There’s also a question about what the United States should be doing. As President Obama said in his statement Thursday, this work is primarily for Egyptians, but there is a role for the United States and for the U.S. government.
The steps announced by the president did not go far enough. Amnesty International is calling for an immediate suspension of all transfers of tear gas; small arms, including shotguns, and light weapons and related ammunition; as well as armored vehicles until adequate safeguards are put in place by the Egyptian authorities to prevent further human rights violations.
Vacation amid violence: Russians flock to Egyptian resorts despite travel warnings, on Russia Today RT, August 17, 2013;
A People Divided: 17 Photo in the Gallery of Spiegel Online International, (from the article: Propaganda Trap: Egyptian Elite Succumb to the Hate Virus, by Ulrike Putz in Cairo, August 16, 2013);
Copts in the line of fire: On 14 August supporters of toppled president Mohamed Morsi torched at least 50 churches, Christian-owned schools and businesses across Egypt, on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Reem Leila, August 15, 2013.