For Immediate Release: October 18, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today noted that the Egyptian Information Minister’s recent promise to investigate state television news coverage of the violent Maspero clashes between Egypt’s military and predominantly unarmed Christian protesters underscores the larger need for an independent body to perform a prompt, fair, and impartial investigation of last week’s sectarian clashes.
During the clashes—now referred to as Black Sunday—Egyptian state television broadcast that “Christians were attacking the military” and urged citizens to join in defense of the army, a call that exacerbated the clashes. The military employed excessive violence against the protesters, opening fire on the unarmed demonstrators and killing some with armored personal carriers (APCs). The clashes resulted in more than 25 deaths and over 300 injuries.
“An independent body, not the military’s judiciary, should carry out a fair, impartial investigation of the Maspero sectarian clashes,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Egypt’s military and security establishment has a record, dating back to the Mubarak period, of playing on sectarian tensions to make the case for their own indispensability as guardians of stability. This counterproductive tactic needs to stop.”
Dooley added that the military judiciary is not a neutral party in the Maspero clashes, making it unable to carry out a fair, impartial investigation. He added that to combat sectarian strife, more effective legislation supporting religious freedom and equality must be enacted immediately in Egypt. The Egyptian government must also more firmly implement existing anti-discrimination laws that protect religious minorities. After Black Sunday, the Egyptian Cabinet promised to revise and to enact the unified places of worship and the anti-discrimination draft laws that were written, but never amended or enacted, in response to the Imbaba sectarian clashes last May.
According to Dooley, “This kind of chaotic violence, most recently seen in the Maspero clashes, is further indication of the dangerous political vacuum now existing in Egypt. It can only be filled by the election of a legitimate representative government.”
To this end, Human Rights First is calling for a clear timetable outlining the transfer of power within the next few months from the Security Council of Armed Forces to an elected civilian government. For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Brenda Bowser Soder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-370-3323.