Following the decision by the council of ministers on 31 July 2013 to take all necessary measures to deal with the two sit-ins by supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque and around al-Nahda Square and the statement by the Interior Ministry on 1 August on the same issue, the undersigned Egyptian human rights organizations emphasize the following:
First: The main aim of any intervention by security forces must be to ensure public safety, prevent disturbances, and protect the rights of others. Therefore, any security or police intervention in a demonstration should be preceded by a comprehensive and official assessment of potential security implications and the state’s capacity to prevent the escalation of violence or its spread to other areas. A security intervention should only occur following the exhaustion of all available means of persuasion, negotiation, and mediation.
Second: Given the prevalence of cases of political violence related to the current conflict occurring in various Egyptian governorates, exacerbated by the events of the Republican Guard and el-Nasr Street, the government of Egypt bears the onus of violence and the deterioration of social peace and security outside the capital, where security forces always fail to intervene to contain the situation and protect affected citizens. This situation could follow any attempt to disperse the sit-in by force, particularly if it leads to a large number of victims.
Third: The undersigned rights organizations emphasize that the state is obligated to the respect of legal tools and international standards in dealing with demonstrations–even demonstrations characterized by violence. These standards stipulate that those responsible for law enforcement should only use force in cases of extreme necessity and only to the extent that enables them to perform their job. Use of force and firearms by security forces must be proportional to the desired objective and magnitude of the threat faced by security forces. It should be legal and necessary, meaning that force and firearms must not be used except in cases where all other means are ineffective or fail to achieve the desired results, and only to the required extent.
Fourth: The undersigned rights organizations warn from the arbitrary use of force, seen in the past few days, resulting in dozens of victims who do not pose any threat. They warn of the deliberate use of lethal weapons in such cases, which is akin to a criminal offence. The organizations call to mind that, in all cases, firearms–including shotgun shells, rubber bullets, and live ammunition–must not be utilized except in self-defence or for protecting others against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. This should only occur when other less extreme means–weapons which are less lethal and designed for riot control–are incapable to achieve such goals and after taking all necessary measures to distinguish between armed and violent protesters, on one hand, and peaceful protesters, women, children, eyewitnesses, neighborhood residents, and other unarmed persons, on the other. Security forces should bear in mind that their primary duty is to restore security with the least possible amount of damage and loss–especially human casualties.
Fifth: The organizations signatory to this statement note that killing protesters in the context of a wide and systematic attack could constitute a case of crimes against humanity, with consequent international criminal responsibility. This is not just related to individuals who participated in the killing, but also falls on officials and commanders, who are obliged to take clear measures to prevent such crimes in the event of evidence of their knowledge of the possibility that such crimes would occur and failure to take necessary measures to prevent such crimes and punish their perpetrators. Despite the fact that Egypt has not ratified the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, acts which amount to crimes against humanity fall within the universal criminal jurisdiction of courts in various countries, allowing them to consider cases of grave human rights violations, regardless of the nationality of the defendant or the place of the crime.
Sixth: The rights organizations emphasize the legal and moral responsibility of the organizers of both sit-ins and their participants towards taking all necessary measures to prevent the presence of weapons inside the sit-ins and prohibit the use of violence against state representatives, residents of the area, or other persons present inside or around the sit-in. It should be stressed that any use of violence, torture, or incitement thereof constitutes a criminal offence, which the state must prevent and punish its perpetrators.
- National Community for Human Rights and Law
- Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center
- Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
- Arab Penal Reform Organization
- Egyptian Organization for Human Rights
- Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies
- Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Criminals
- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
- Nazra for Feminist Studies