Recent bloodshed underscores urgent need to halt arms transfers to Egypt
All governments must suspend the transfer of weapons of the type used by Egypt’s security forces in violent dispersals and unwarranted lethal force against sit-ins and other protests, Amnesty International said today.
The organization has analysed some of the transfers to Egypt in recent years – including tens of thousands of conventional weapons worth tens of millions of dollars. Among the countries supplying weapons and ammunition of the type used during the bloodshed on 14 August are the Czech Republic, China, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA.
The sales include military firearms, shotguns, riot control launchers and corresponding ammunition and projectiles, as well as armoured vehicles and military helicopters.
“Weapons and equipment supplied irresponsibly to Egypt by a handful of countries are being used for excessive force and unlawful killings,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Deliveries must be frozen until full, prompt and impartial investigations into the recent violence – and similar incidents over the past several years – have been carried out and their findings made public. How could any state continue to deliver equipment used to disperse demonstrations knowing full well the Egyptian security forces’ track record?
“No further weapons should be sent until the Egyptian authorities can demonstrate that the security forces will not use them unlawfully.”
Guns, tear gas, armoured vehicles and bulldozers were used by the Egyptian security forces – including riot police and members of the Ministry of Interior’s Special Forces – to clear encampments set up by supporters of Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo. As of Monday, the death toll had risen to about 900 protesters and bystanders, while on Sunday Egypt’s Ministry of Interior told Amnesty International that 69 members of the security forces also lost their lives. On Monday, an additional 25 conscripts serving in the riot police died during an armed attack in restive Northern Sinai.
“Enough is enough. How many people must die as a result of the use of excessive force by the Egyptian security forces before the world wakes up and stops fuelling such violence?” said Shetty.
“The excessive and unwarranted lethal force seen this week is part of a pattern documented by Amnesty International for years. This is why enforcement of the global Arms Trade Treaty, adopted just a few months ago, is so badly needed.”
Amnesty International’s call comes as EU Foreign Ministers are due to meet in Brussels to discuss their response to the situation in Egypt. The organization calls on all EU member states to fully implement the EU's existing Common Position on arms exports, as well as the human rights provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty – which all EU member states have signed.
The organization is also calling on world leaders to refuse the export of conventional arms when there is an overriding risk the arms would be used to facilitate serious human rights violations – the litmus test contained in the global Arms Trade Treaty
adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 April 2013. All states should sign and ratify the treaty and implement its human rights provisions without delay
Firearms and ammunition
Firearms and ammunition used by the Egyptian security forces include assault rifles and machineguns – weapons which members of the public are not permitted to own in Egypt.
Pistols, shotguns, and corresponding ammunition used by security forces most likely emanate from batch deliveries of hundreds or thousands of pistols or shotguns, or from hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of cartridges delivered in a single month. Such batches are more indicative of a government order than of sales to the general public.
According to Amnesty International’s research, in recent years the following countries have transferred weapons to Egypt of the type being used in the current crackdown:
The Czech Republic sent 15,062 pistols to Egypt in May 2013. This appears to be part of a contract for 50,000 pistols announced that month by the Czech company CZ to equip the Egyptian police. Whether the remaining 34,438 pistols have been delivered is not known. The Czech Republic also exported a total of more than 3,500 pistols to Egypt in two shipments in February and July last year.
The USA reported exports of 1,524 military rifles and machineguns to Egypt between January 2011 and June 2013. In January 2012 the USA supplied Egypt with more than US$10 million worth of ‘Cartridges Not Containing a Projectile’, and sent a further US$1 million worth of ‘Parts of Cartridges’ two months later. It is likely that these shipments of components were made into ammunition in Egypt.
The USA also exported 2,050 pump-action shotguns in large batches to Egypt during 2011-2012. In July last year it delivered cartridges for rifles and pistols worth US$169,479.
Turkey reported an export of 14,406 pistols to Egypt in 2010. The following year, it reportedly made several transfers of shotgun cartridges worth a total of US$336,047.
From October 2011 to May 2013, Italy reported exports to Egypt of shotgun cartridges in large batches, worth a total of €562,231. It also reportedly sent 7,415 “pistols and revolvers” in April 2010 and significant exports totalling 1,607 single barrelled shotguns from 2009-11.
From 2011 to 2013, Switzerland reported exports to Egypt of small calibre ammunition (for pistols, rifles and machineguns) worth a total US$295,871.
Cyprus reported exports to Egypt between October 2011 and December 2012 of large batches of shotgun cartridges with a total value of €761,724.
According to official records in Egypt, in 2010 China supplied the country with military firearms worth $US100,831,
Germany also reported exports of 1,130 pistols or revolvers during 2009 and 2010 in sufficient batches to cause concern.
Similarly Spain reported a single export of shotgun cartridges in February 2013 worth €176,550 while South Korea reported exports of shotgun cartridges in 2012 worth US$450,965.
Armoured vehicles and other military equipment
As recently as January 2013, France supplied 47 Sherpa armoured vehicles to the Egyptian security forces, similar to the 20 vehicles it previously supplied. Many of these vehicles were seen last week being used to transport police and military personnel, and protesters pushed one off a bridge.
On 9 October 2011, several protesters were killed in Cairo when Egyptian armoured personnel carriers and cars drove recklessly and at high speed into protesters in an attempt to disperse a primarily Coptic demonstration.
Tracked armoured personnel carriers also used in the crackdown have included many NATO-standard type M-113. The Netherlands has previously delivered 105 variants of this vehicle (AIVF) while the US has supplied more than 250 of them through its massive military aid programme to Egypt.
Last week the Egyptian security forces also used a Boeing AH-64 Apache military attack helicopter to conduct surveillance over Cairo to facilitate command and control of operations, and used armoured Caterpillar D7R bulldozers to break up protests and smash through barricades. Both types of military equipment are made in the USA.
According to two research groups, TransArms USA and the International Peace Information Service, two vessels operated by the shipping company American President Lines (APL) docked in Damietta in Egypt in January this year after leaving US ports.
The research groups have obtained six bills of lading – documents used in the transport of goods by sea – for the ships. According to those documents, the cargo included parts and components for tactical and support vehicles, military Humvees (HMMWVs), armoured vehicles and tanks, helicopters and aircraft of various type, military electronic equipment and radars, various types of missiles, and various types of hazardous chemicals.
According to US State Department statistics, in 2011 the US government authorized more than US$100 million worth of arms sales to Egypt. This included some 73,000 items – worth in excess of US$1.7 million – listed as “toxic agents”, the category which includes tear gas. The USA shipped a similar amount of toxic agents to Egypt in 2010.
EU arms export licences granted in 2011 show that France exported €26.5 million of electronic components to Egypt, €25 million of arms-production equipment, €23 million of military aircraft and €21 million of bombs, rockets and missiles. Spain authorized the sale of €78.5 million of military aircraft and Germany gave permits for €57.3 million of military ground vehicles, €9 million of electronic equipment and €6 million of naval vessels.