Protests and protestors in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
© Amnesty International
Egypt’s military rulers must protect protesters as they promised and end military trials of civilians.
The months leading up to the polls on 28 November have been marred by the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by security forces, as well as unfair trials of thousands of civilians by military tribunals.
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has done nothing to protect protesters, rather it has suppressed those critical of its performance. Demonstrations are routinely dispersed by soldiers, military police and riot police (Central Security Forces). Protesters have faced tear gas, batons, rubber bullets, live ammunition and assaults by groups of “thugs” (baltaguiya).
On 9 October, the security forces attacked protests demonstrating against religious discrimination in Maspero, Cairo. Twenty-eight people were killed – many crushed by armoured vehicles driven at high speeds into the crowds. On 19/20 November, violence returned to Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Dozens of protesters were killed and hundreds injured when military and security forces forcibly dispersed crowds calling for an end to military rule. The scene was repeated throughout the country, including Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, as well as Suez and Port Said. The continuing violence raises serious questions over what orders the SCAF have issued to the security forces.
Military courts have become the hallmark of the SCAF’s abuses. Under military rule, military courts have unfairly tried thousands of civilians. The authorities have alleged that the majority were convicted of criminal charges, including “thuggery”, rape, possession of weapons and damaging property, “violating the curfew” although some people have also been accused of “insulting the army”. Those convicted received sentences ranging from several months’ imprisonment to the death penalty.
Amnesty International opposes all trials of civilians before military courts. Military trials in Egypt deny the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal, and violate the right to appeal to a higher tribunal. In Egypt, appeals before military courts examine only the law, and not the facts, of a case.
Call on the leader of the SCAF, Field Marshal Muhammad Tantawi, to protect protesters and end military trials of civilians:
I call on the SCAF to protect demonstrators, stop excessive use of force, and end military trials of civilians.
I am deeply worried by the increasingly bloody crackdowns on protests in Egypt. While the Egyptian authorities have a duty to maintain law and order, they must not use excessive force to crack down on peaceful protests. Instead, the SCAF must respect Egyptians’ rights to freedom of assembly and expression, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a state party. Incidents where the military and security forces are believed to have used excessive force must be subject to prompt, independent and impartial investigations, as required by international law and standards.
I am further concerned that, since the armed forces were deployed in late January, thousands of civilians have faced unfair trials before military courts. Such trials violate the right to a fair and public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law – including the right to appeal to a higher tribunal. As such, they breach Egypt’s fair-trial obligations under Article 14 of the ICCPR and should never be used to try civilians.