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SCAF's violations resemble Mubarak's abuses: Amnesty Report

The rights group's report on Arab Spring says the ruling military council in Egypt has fallen far short of satisfying the people's hopes; some council's violations are worse than during the days under the ousted dictator

Nada Hussein Rashwan, Monday 9 Jan 2012
APCs ran over and killed Coptic protesters on 9 October in Maspero Cairo (Photo Reuters)

Amnesty International’s 2011 Middle East report, Year of Rebellion: State of Human Rights in the Middle East and North Africa, released Monday 9 January 2012, in its chapter on Egypt sheds light on the violations committed by the ruling Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) since they took power when Mubarak stepped down in February.

“In its early statements, the SCAF said that the armed forces would continue to protect ‘protesters regardless of their views.’ It also warned against public disorder or attempts to create dissent or disrupt the functioning of Egyptian institutions, a warning that was all too soon translated into assaults on the very human rights that it said it aimed to protect” says the report.

The report demonstrates that measures taken by the SCAF were detrimental to the essential demands on which the Egyptian revolution was based. “Some of the SCAF’s legal changes and policies targeting basic rights reinforced long-standing patterns of serious human rights violations, while others – such as subjecting women protesters to forced ‘virginity tests’ –represented disturbing new forms of abuse” emphasises the report, which depicts the violations of military forces as a mirror reflection of the violations used by Mubarak’s abusive State Security apparatus.

The report states that while Mubarak was brought to court in August under public pressure, a general sense of impunity still prevails, especially with regard to violations on the part of the military police. “In many cases, violations were committed by the military police, heightening fears that torture and other ill-treatment will remain an endemic feature of Egypt’s law enforcement apparatus unless those responsible for such abuses are held to account,” highlights the report.

The report goes on to criticise some of the laws that were modified by the military council since they assumed power when Mubarak stepped down on 11 February 2011. In particular, the report points to the renewal of emergency law in September and extending it to criminalise certain forms of public assembly.

“These changes directly threaten freedom of expression and association, and the rights to assembly and to strike – and even reverse reforms that the Mubarak government had felt obliged to make by public pressure in recent years,” comments the report.

In a similar vein, the report also condemns the continuation of forcible dispersal of sit-ins by police and army forces since February, as well the use of excessive force against protesters.  The report highlights in particular the use of excessive force in November when a five-day battle initiated when police and army forces attempted to clear a sit-in of the revolution’s injured protesters, leading to the deaths of at least 45 protesters died.

“Riot police used methods all too familiar from Hosni Mubarak’s last days in power,” comments the report on the continuation of using violence against protesters even after the uprising.

The report slams the trial of 12,000 Egyptian civilians in military courts, where some of those brought to trial include protesters and striking workers.

Additionally, the report showcases the SCAF’s “tightened restrictions” on freedom of the press and also the targeting of civil society organisations under claims of receiving unauthorised foreign funding, in reference to the recent raids by security forces and prosecution officers on 17 offices that belong to at least five non-governmental organisations in December. 

The chapter ends saying, “a better future for all Egyptians was promised, but nearly one year on millions of people continue to live in slums and in poverty, and wait for their voices to be heard.”

As well as a chapter on Egypt, the 80-page report has chapters on Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Iraq, in addition to chapters looking at the rest of the region and the international response. One of the main themes of the report is the willingness of government forces to use force and violence, and the protest movements’ willingness to work towards their goals.

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