For Immediate Release: November 21, 2011
New York City – Human Rights First condemns the excessive use of force by Egyptian security forces against protesters in Cairo that has resulted in the deaths of at least 35 people and many hundreds of injuries since protests began on Friday November 18. The protests were called to demand that the ruling military council, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), should hand over power to a civilian government.
“The resignation of Egypt’s cabinet has created a void that should now be filled by the appointment of a civilian transitional government that would permit the military to step back from direct involvement in political life,” said Human Rights First’s Neil Hicks.
The U.S. government should not repeat the mistake it made when protests first broke out against President Mubarak in January. At that time, the administration was slow to side with the demands of the people for more representative government.
The administration should immediately:
- Condemn the excessive use of force by Egyptian security forces against unarmed protesters and urge that they be pulled back from further confrontation with protesters.
- Urge the SCAF to announce a firm timeline for transfer of power to an elected civilian authority by the middle of 2012, and to renounce all demands for military control over the government after the elections, or for exempting the military budget and activities from civilian oversight.
- Call for the immediate appointment of a national salvation government of respected, independent civilian figures to oversee the elections and the remainder of the transitional period. The SCAF cannot be trusted to oversee the elections and they have shown themselves to be incapable of protecting the basic political freedoms necessary for credible elections to take place.
- Urge that elections for the parliament and the presidency move forward as soon as possible.
The SCAF’s public response to the protest has raised further concerns about its role and intentions. It has blamed “hidden hands” for the violence and refused to accept responsibility for the violations perpetrated by the security forces; it has referred to dead and injured protesters as “thugs”; there is a disturbing pattern emerging of activists being especially targeted by the security forces with a number of bloggers and photographers suffering serious eye injuries; and SCAF representatives have continued to defame independent civil society organizations that are monitoring the serious violations of human rights that are taking place.
Political parties and opposition groups are calling for another mass protest tomorrow. The security forces must allow protesters to express their views without being subjected to violent repression, including the use of lethal force, by the security forces.
“The catastrophic mishandling of the protests has again demonstrated that the SCAF, and the anti-democratic military rule it represents, has become an obstacle to Egypt’s peaceful transition to democratic rule,” concluded Hicks.