16 August 2013

Egypt: Ensure accountability for crimes against humanity

As thousands of Egyptians again take to the streets throughout the country today in protest at the brutality of the repression by the military and police forces over the past 6 weeks, dozens of deaths are already reported. Such deaths seemed inevitable when the Egyptian Ministry of Interior yesterday issued orders instructing "all forces to use live ammunition to counter any attacks on government buildings or forces." In view of the systematic use of excessive force by Egyptian security forces against its own population resulting so far in over 1000 civilian deaths, and in consultation with other human rights organisations from the region, Alkarama today called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to initiate the process of bringing those responsible for these violations before the International Criminal Court.
Indeed, article 7 of the Rome Statute defines both "murder" and "persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious" as crimes against humanity when they are "part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack".

Alkarama's representatives in Egypt counted more than 300 bodies in the medical centers of Rabaa Al Adaweya Square in Cairo, during the siege of the square by security forces last Wednesday 14 August. Since then, Alkarama has being working to confirm a preliminary list of more than 1000 names of victims, submitted by their families, and who were killed all over Egypt on this same day. On Thursday 15 August, Egyptian Health Ministry officials confirmed the death toll for Wednesday was at 700 and earlier today, Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative described "the toll of death and injury [as] shocking." Such a high number of deaths throughout the country clearly demonstrates the widespread and systematic nature of the attacks.

Following Wednesday's violent crackdown, interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi declared that "the state had to intervene to restore security and peace for Egyptians," as demonstrators had been "terrorising citizens, attacking public and private property." Though demonstrators used rocks and batons to defend themselves against heavily armed security forces, and allegations of some armed protestors were reported, such a statement clearly aims to paint all protestors as violent and aiming to attack government forces. In such a context, the Interior Minister's order for "all forces to use live ammunition to counter any attacks on government buildings or forces", effectively gives the security forces authorization to fire at will into overwhelmingly peaceful protests.

Such statements by the interim President, Prime Minister and Interior Minister, as well as by the Head of the Army, show that far from simply having knowledge of the attack, clear orders were given for these attacks on the civilian population.

Although Egypt is not a party to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, given these circumstances, Alkarama has urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to bring the situation in Egypt to the attention of the UN Security Council which can, in line with article 13 of the Statute, refer "a situation in which one or more of such crimes appears to have been committed [...] to the Prosecutor [of the International Criminal Court]".

UN human rights experts this morning warned that "Egypt is facing an escalating and deeply worrying human rights crisis." Alkarama hopes that the international community will play its role in averting this crisis and protect the rights of the Egyptian people, whose peaceful revolution only two years ago was an inspiration to populations around the world hoping to one day live in freedom and under the rule of the law.

For more information:

In Cairo – Ahmed Mefreh, +201 155 7373 72 (Arabic)

In Geneva – Noemie Crottaz +41 79 685 63 81 (English, French)

Egypt - HR Instruments

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

ICCPR: Ratified on 14.01.1982
Optional Protocol: No

State report: Overdue since 01.11.2004 (4th)
Last concluding observations: 28.11.2002

Convention against Torture (CAT)

CAT: Accessed on 25.06.1986
Optional Protocol: No
Art. 20 (Confidential inquiry): Yes
Art. 22 (Individual communications): No

State report: Due on 25.06.2016 (initially due in 2004)
Last concluding observations: 23.12.2002

International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED)


Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Last review: 02.2010 (1st cycle)
Next review: 2014 (2nd cycle)

National Human Rights Institution (NHRI)

National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) – Status A

Last review: 10.2006
Next review: Deferred