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Amnesty calls for halt to weapons ship en route from US to Egypt

The human right's organisation says cargo ship carrying munitions from US to Egypt must not be allowed to dock in Port Said, warns that security forces could use weapons to commit human rights violations against civilians

Ahram Online, Thursday 15 Mar 2012
Egyptian riot police
File Photo: Egyptian riot police fire tear gas canisters at protestors, not pictured (Photo: AP)

Amnesty International calls a halt to cargo ship carrying weapons with explosives en route from the US to Egypt, according to a press statement by the human rights organisation on Thursday. The statement warned of the "substantial risk" that Egyptian security forces might use those weapons to commit human rights violations against civilians.

“This ship of shame should not be allowed to unload its dangerous cargo in Egypt, and there is a substantial risk that this is what it plans to do,” said Brian Wood Amnesty International’s head of arms control.

On 3 March 2012 the ship left Sunny Point, a military-only port in the US state of North Carolina, carrying cartridges for weapons, fuses, and other ammunition. The ship has a cargo capacity of 21,000 tonnes and 1,100 twenty-foot containers. The captain reported the ship’s next destination as Port Said in Egypt.

Currently, the Dutch flagged ship, MV Schippersgracht, is in the Mediterranean Sea and due to arrive in Egypt in the coming week, the captain told Amnesty.

The freighter, according to the human right's group, arrived at the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), Southport in North Carolina, USA on 24 February 2012. The MOTSU is known to be the largest ammunition port in the US and is the Department of Defense's key Atlantic Coast ammunition shipping point.

Amnesty says that it has been tracking the ship for the past two months.

During the one-year period after Egypt's 18-day uprising, security and army forces killed more than a hundred Egyptians and injured thousands more.

The latter half of 2011 saw the deadliest clashes between security and army forces and protesters. In October's Maspero violence, pro-Coptic Christian protesters were brutally dispersed by army forces. November's Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes saw security and army forces use rubber bullets, tear gas and sometimes live ammunition to push protesters away form the reviled interior ministry.

According to the press statement, Amnesty – working with Transarms and the International Peace and Information Service – has documented a series of ‘Ships of Shame’ transferring of arms from the world’s major irresponsible arms suppliers, including China, Russia, and USA, to countries where there is a substantial risk the weapons will be used to commit serious human rights violations. 

In the past, the global human right's organisation has also condemned several violations by Egypt's ruling military junta such as 'virginity tests' on female protesters, the use of torture against political activists and the ongoing military trials of civilians. 

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