Amnesty: military junta crushed hopes of the revolution

Egypt’s military junta is applying the same hated tactics of severe repression used by the former regime of President Hosni Mubarak, international human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a report issued Tuesday, adding that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has “crushed” the hopes of revolutionary protesters.

Amnesty said in a lengthy report titled “Broken Promises: Egypt’s Military Rulers Erode Human Rights” that “impunity for serious human rights violations, including unlawful killings, torture and other ill-treatment, and excessive use of force” has continued in Egypt since the fall of the hated Mubarak.
The report came as police and army forces continued their bloody crackdown on protesters in Tahrir, killing at least 28 in Egypt’s worst wave of violence since the ouster of Mubarak, according to the Health Ministry’s latest figures.
“The human rights balance sheet for SCAF shows that after nine months in charge of Egypt, the aims and aspirations of the 25 January revolution have been crushed. The brutal and heavy-handed response to protests in the last few days bears all the hallmarks of the Mubarak era,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa acting director.
The SCAF’s disregard for life has become a common feature since it claimed power after the resignation of the former president on 11 February.
The report recalled the violence near the Maspero state TV building in which 28 people, mostly Copts, were killed on 9 October. Reportedly during the fighting, the army fired live ammunition while armored personnel carriers (APCs) ran over protesters.
Such unlawful killings were not investigated properly and the perpetrators seem to have eluded punishment.
“Instead of ordering an independent investigation, the army announced that it would carry out the investigation itself and moved quickly to suppress criticism,” reads the Amnesty report.
This is not the only such case, the report continues, and shows that the SCAF doesn’t enforce the same “effectiveness and impartiality of military investigations into abuses by the armed forces themselves.”
On 9 March, the army violently dispersed a sit-in of around 1000 protesters and arrested scores. Female detainees were reportedly subjected to torture and forced “virginity tests.”
The SCAF announced on 28 March that it would “investigate the use of forced ‘virginity tests’ by the army to intimidate 17 female protesters on 9 March, but no information about this investigation has been made public. Instead, the only woman who filed a complaint against the SCAF was said to have been subjected to harassment and intimidation,” says Amnesty.
Moreover, in September the SCAF said it would open an investigation over a video circulated showing army and police officers beating and shocking two detainees. The SCAF later dismissed the video as “fake” without providing any further details, according to Amnesty.
Instead, the SCAF tries to silence critics and restrict the freedom of expression.
“Those who have challenged or criticized the military council — like demonstrators, journalists, bloggers, striking workers — have been ruthlessly suppressed in an attempt to silence their voices,” said Luther.
The report documents seven notable examples about the SCAF summoning activists, journalists and bloggers. On 14 May, presidential hopeful Bothaina Kamel was questioned by military prosecutors after publicly criticizing the military council. On 31 May, blogger and political activist Hossam el-Hamalawy appeared before military prosecutors after he criticized the head of the military police. On 19 June, Al-Fagr journalist Rasha Azb was questioned by military prosecutors after reporting on a meeting between the SCAF and a group of Egyptian activists opposed to putting civilians before military trials.
Amnesty also documents the case of prominent blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah, who was detained after refusing to answer military prosecutors’ questions over the Maspero incidents. He claimed he would not cooperate since the military was conducting the investigation despite being the main party accused of killing protesters. Abd El Fattah has been charged with inciting violence against military.
But perhaps the most egregious is the case of blogger Maikel Nabil, who Amnesty describes as a prisoner of conscience. Nabil was sentenced to three years in prison in April for documenting, on his blog, the human rights violations committed by the SCAF in dispersing protesters.
The report also documents the SCAF’s violations of the individual’s right to stand before an impartial judge, referring to the nearly 12,000 civilians across the country who have been tried before military courts since August. Some of these are grossly unfair trials in which at least 13 have been sentenced to death.
The number of cases brought before these military tribunals is more than the total number of civilians who faced military trials during the 30-year reign of Mubarak.
On Monday, presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei, in criticizing the SCAF’s handling of the transitional period, said that only civilians have been put before these trials while police officers accused of killing protesters during the 18-day uprising have not received verdicts.
“By using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protest and expanding the remit of Mubarak’s Emergency Law, the SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the 25 January demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of,” said Luther.
The report concludes that the wave of arrests being carried out by the army are always marred by torture and other ill-treatment, such as beatings and electric shocks. As for the security apparatus, torture of detainees and prisoners has continued, with some losing their lives in custody from being tortured.
“No independent, impartial and thorough investigations are known to have been conducted into allegations or complaints of torture, and inquiries announced by the armed forces have not resulted in bringing members of the security forces — including military personnel — to justice for abuses,” says the report.

Excerpts from the report 

Violations of Freedom of expression: examples

On 14 May, broadcaster Bothaina Kamel, who has announced that she intends to contest Egypt’s presidential elections, was questioned by a military prosecutor after publicly criticising the military authorities. Her summons followed posts on her Twitter account, and an appearance on a Nile TV talk show on 10 May that was cut short when station owners reportedly ordered the presenter to end the programme.

On 31 May, blogger and political activist Hossam el-Hamalawy appeared before military prosecutors, after he criticized the head of the military police during an ONTV talk show. The host, Reem Maged, was also summonsed as a “witness”. Journalist Nabil Sharaf al-Din, was also reportedly interrogated at the same time after he criticised the SCAF’s handling of the political transition on ONTV and suggested that the army and Muslim Brotherhood had made a political deal.

On 2 June, military prosecutors summonsed Al-Wafd reporter Hossam al-Suwaifi and editor Sayyid Abdel Ati after the newspaper published an article alleging a political deal between Islamist parties and the authorities. Sayyid Abdel Ati was reportedly charged with publishing “false information”, but, at time of writing, is not believed to have faced any further action.

On 19 JuneEl-Fagr editor Adel Hammuda and journalist Rasha Azb were interrogated by a military prosecutor after reporting on a meeting between the SCAF and a group of Egyptian activists opposed to military trials. Rasha Azb was reportedly accused of publishing “false information”, and Adel Hammuda of “lax” editorial supervision. Both were released without bail after the questioning. Rasha Azb had previously been detained and beaten following protests in Tahrir Square in March (see below, Torture and other ill-treatment).

On 14 August, activist and blogger Asmaa Mahfouz was detained and charged with insulting the military and inciting violence against them after posts she made on the social media site Twitter. She was released and the SCAF then announced it was dropping the charges against her.

On 27 October, 6 April Youth Movement activist Sherif al-Rouby reported to the Egyptian press that he had been detained for three days and interrogated about the source of funding of the 6 April Youth Movement. Begun as an on-line network on Facebook in 2008 to support striking workers in the town of El-Mahalla El-Kubra, under Hosni Mubarak the 6 April Youth Movement was one of the most active movements calling for greater human rights and the end of the state of emergency. Its members participated prominently in the mass protests of the “25 January Revolution”.

On 30 October, political and human rights activists Alaa Abd El Fattah and Bahaa Saber appeared before military prosecutors for questioning over their role in protests on 9 October, when demonstrations around the Maspero television building, in Cairo, were violently dispersed by the security forces (see “Demonstrations violently dispersed”). Both rejected the authority of the military judicial system, and refused to answer the military prosecutors’ questions. Both were then charged with inciting violence against the armed forces and assaulting military personnel during the 9 October protests. Bahaa Saber was released on bail. Alaa Abd El Fattah, who faced the additional charge of stealing weapons, was detained for 15 days. He remains detained at time of writing. Amnesty International believes that Alaa Abd El Fattah has been targeted by the SCAF because of his leading role as a blogger and activist critical of the military rulers. No convincing evidence has been presented to substantiate the charges against him.

Demonstrations dispersed, strikes banned

9 March

According to witnesses’ testimonies gathered by Amnesty International, the army entered Tahrir Square on the afternoon of 9 March and violently dispersed a gathering of around 1,000 people, beating demonstrators, dismantling tents and breaking up an informal medical clinic. Journalists attempting to record events had the memory cards of their cameras wiped. Soldiers conducted arrests and took protesters to the Egyptian Museum near to Tahrir Square, where they were held in an annex of the building and subjected to abuse. Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that the army allowed civilians opposed to the demonstrations to attack protesters with sticks and swords. Detained protesters told Amnesty International that they were beaten and had witnessed people being beaten in detention. Singer Ramy Essam, known for his songs about the uprising, was detained and tortured. Graphic pictures of his wounds were then posted on the Internet. Military personnel also subjected some women detainees to “virginity tests” (see chapter on arrest, detention and torture).

9 April

On 9 April the Egyptian military used excessive force to disperse demonstrations in Tahrir Square. At least two protesters were reportedly killed. Protesters told Amnesty International that the army used sticks, electric batons, shot in the air and drove armoured vehicles into the protest, causing a number of injuries. Thousands of protesters had gathered in Tahrir Square following Friday prayers to demand the trial of Hosni Mubarak and other officials suspected of corruption and human rights violations. Witnesses told Amnesty International that about a thousand protesters remained in the square at about 2.30am when soldiers, military police and Central Security Forces began to disperse them by force with no prior warning. Witnesses reported that rubber bullets and tear gas had also been used by the security forces.

28/29 June

Clashes erupted on the evening of 28 June between security forces and protesters in Tahrir Square and the streets leading to the Ministry of Interior, continuing into 29 June. The protests were violently dispersed: an Amnesty International team in Cairo witnessed riot police charging demonstrators in Tahrir Square, firing tear gas recklessly, beating protesters with sticks and firing shotguns. Some protesters threw rocks and occasionally petrol bombs. The Ministry of Health and Population said that more than a thousand people were injured, including some 40 members of the security forces. Amnesty International interviewed medical staff, as well as injured protesters and security forces. The protesters’ injuries included buckshot wounds to the back, arms and eyes, as well as burns and wounds caused by tear gas canisters.

The demonstration followed the violent dispersal of relatives of those killed during the “25 January Revolution” on 28 June near Al Balloon Theatre in Giza, where a commemoration ceremony for the victims of the uprising was reportedly due to take place.

n  Amal Shaker Mohamed Seliman, from Al-Amiria in Cairo, was reportedly arrested during the dispersal. The mother of Ahmed Zein Al Abidin, one of those killed in the uprising, told Amnesty International she was insulted and punched in Al-Agouza Police Station by a police officer. Families of the victims and their supporters have been frustrated with how the trials of former senior officials have been conducted, and the fact that lower-ranking policemen suspected of killing protesters remain in their jobs.

22/23 July

On 22 July, following the forcible dispersal of demonstrations in Alexandria, protesters in Tahrir Square marched to the Ministry of Defence, reportedly shouting anti-SCAF slogans. The SCAF issued a statement accusing the 6 April Youth Movement of driving a wedge between the army and the people. The movement was also accused of having received foreign funding.

The following day, 23 July, over 100 people were reportedly injured in Cairo’s Abbasseya district after a protest march to the Ministry of Defence was blocked by the Central Security Forces and military police. Protesters also came under attack by groups of people opposing the march, some of them reportedly using bladed weapons and Molotov cocktails. The SCAF called on people to “thwart all attempts that aim to drive a wedge between the Armed Forces and the people, attempts that have been cited on many websites operated by a group of malevolent agents.”

n  Blogger and human rights activist Amr Gharbeia, a former Amnesty International staff member, was stopped by a group of men during the protest march who accused him of being a spy. After the men attempted to turn him in to various branches of the security forces he was finally released at the al-Waili police station.

9 September

Violent protests around the Giza Security Directorate and Saudi embassy on 9 September resulted in a confrontation between security forces and protesters which left three people dead. Some 130 people were arrested. The protests also spread to the Israeli embassy, where crowds reportedly sacked part of the premises. On 1 November, 87 of those detained in connection with the attack on the embassy were reportedly given six-month suspended sentences by a military court. It was also reported that the (Emergency) Supreme State Security Court was considering the case of 36 others in relation to the same incident.

9 October

On 9 October, a protest organized by Copts against religious discrimination around the state television building, Maspero, Cairo, was violently dispersed by the security forces, including military police, Central Security Forces and groups of “thugs”. Twenty-eight people, including one soldier, are believed to have been killed in the crackdown – although the Egyptian authorities have refused to state officially how many members of the security forces were killed.

Footage of the protests posted on the Internet shows military vehicles driving at high speed towards protesters in crowded areas. Medical staff at Cairo’s Coptic Hospital, where a large number of the dead and injured were taken after the incident, told Amnesty International that injuries seen included bullet wounds and crushed body parts resulting from people being run over by army vehicles. Witnesses described how security forces in armoured vehicles fired into the crowds and killed or injured protesters by running over them.

On 10 October, the Public Prosecutor started preliminary interrogations of those injured in the clashes and 21 people were detained for 15 days, pending further investigation. The SCAF also ordered the establishment of an investigation into the incident, but to date no members of the security forces are known to have been held to account for the deadly violence used on 9 October. At least 30 civilians, as well as blogger Alaa Abd El Fatta, have reportedly been detained by the Military Prosecution in relation to events that day; others are reportedly wanted for questioning.

On 2 November, the Egypt national human rights institution – the National Council for Human Rights – published the results of its investigation into the Maspero events and urged the authorities to set up an independent and impartial committee to investigate the incident. The NCHR’s investigation found that 17 of the deaths around Maspero had been caused by armoured vehicles – a finding consistent with Egyptian and international human rights organizations also investigating the incident.


One response to “Amnesty: military junta crushed hopes of the revolution

  1. Pingback: HER: SCAF curbs on free press, assembly before poll « الثورة ميدان

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