Egyptian authorities are attempting to cover up the deaths of more than two dozen killed in protests marking the 25 January Revolution last weekend, according to an Amnesty International report published Sunday.
Security forces are accused of repeatedly using excessive force to disperse demonstrations in the period between 23-26 January, while also failing to intervene in clashes between residents and protesters to stop the violence.
“Official investigations ordered into the killings appear aimed at whitewashing mounting evidence of the security forces’ ruthless and unlawful actions,” Amnesty International said.
Prosecutors have threatened eyewitnesses with arrest, and have refused to disclose where the detained protesters were being held, the report stated. Human rights lawyers told Amnesty International that their attempts to represent the detainees or to file complaints for enforced disappearance were blocked. Some detainees were tortured during investigations by intelligence services, lawyers said.
According to the report, 27 people were killed in protests in the period between 23-26 January. They include at least two women, Sondos Reda Abo Bakr and Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh, as well as a 10-year-old boy, Mina Maher. Some protesters resorted to violence and two members of the security forces were also killed.
At least two journalists were detained for their coverage of the protest, and at least 500 demonstrators and bystanders are being held in unofficial detention facilities, the report further detailed.
The statement further alluded to the shooting of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh by security forces during a protest in downtown Cairo on 24 January.
The incident occurred when a peaceful protest arranged by the Socialist Popular Alliance Party was cleared by shotgun fire and tear gas. Al-Sabbagh was killed by birdshot.
Eyewitnesses to this incident, including Nagwa Abbas, a member of the Political Affairs Office of the socialist party, and Azza Suleiman, Chairman of the Center for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance, were placed under arrest after testifying being accused of protesting without authorisation and attacking security forces. The prosecutor claimed that the accusations were based on the testimonies of the witnesses. They were later released following negotiations between the lawyers and the prosecution.
Amnesty demanded in the report that the Egyptian authorities “immediately and unconditionally release all those who are detained solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression or assembly”.
It also called on the international community to take “robust action” to address the “mounting death toll and human rights crisis” in Egypt.
It has further urged the United States and EU to continue to freeze deliveries of arms and equipment that may aid human rights violations by security forces.
Although Egypt is currently facing a security threat where the safety of Egyptians must be ensured, the watchdog contended that the Egyptian authorities cannot do so by trampling on human rights and ignoring their obligations under international law.
The Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment.
Moreover, eight Egyptian civil society organisations have also strongly condemned the extrajudicial killing of demonstrators carried out by Egyptian security forces on 24 and 25 January, in a joint press release issued on 28 January.
The human rights situation in Egypt has received wide-scale criticism from international and local human rights organisations in the past year. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) reported that most of the rights and freedoms safeguarded by the constitution were ignored while some were flagrantly violated by the government.
Egypt has been provided with 300 recommendations by the United Nations Human Rights Council, following its Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in November 2014. This was Egypt’s second UPR. In its first review in 2010 it received 165 recommendations.