For Immediate Release: September 13, 2011
Washington, DC – Violent protests in Egypt during the night of September 9, including an attack on the Israeli Embassy in central Cairo, have prompted a troubling crackdown from Egypt’s interim military government. Human Rights First is concerned that the government’s response – including a threat to use draconian powers under Egypt’s near permanent and not yet repealed Emergency Law – runs counter to the demands of the mass protest movement that swept President Mubarak from office in February.
“Political protest is never an excuse for violence against people or property and the Egyptian authorities have an obligation to ensure the security of foreign embassies in Cairo. This harsh crackdown that has followed the Israeli Embassy attack is far from stabilizing the situation. In fact, it is likely to fuel more instability and undermine prospects for a peaceful transition to representative, democratic government,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks. “Using the threat of unrest as a pretext to clamp down and disregard human rights is a return to the discredited practices of the previous government in Egypt. The ruling military council should remember that the popular uprisings in Egypt and elsewhere have demonstrated that repression does not lead to stability.”
According to Hicks, it is disturbing that military police are reported to have stood aside while rioters stormed the Israeli embassy building, thereby escalating the severity of the incident. He notes that instead of using this apparent negligence to justify a sweeping crackdown on basic rights and freedoms, the Egyptian authorities should work to ensure that law enforcement personnel carry out their duties in a consistent manner without selectively turning a blind eye to lawlessness directed against targets unpopular with certain groups of protesters.
“Egypt’s future stability will depend on building respect for the rule of law, upheld by police and security forces that themselves maintain the highest standards of conduct, refraining from excessive use of force, corruption or other abuses,” Hicks concluded. “To prevent Egypt’s largely peaceful uprising from degenerating into more rioting and destruction, the interim government must move forward with a credible, transparent plan to hold free and fair elections in a secure atmosphere in which basic rights and freedoms for all Egyptians are protected.”