Call for Inquiry into Egyptian Violence

International human Rights organizations are calling on the Egyptian government to set up an independent council to investigate the December 30 killing of 27 Sudanese refugees in a Cairo park and possible deportation of them.

In a letter to President Mubarak, Human Rights Watch today expressed
concern that some of the 645 persons slated for return could be at risk of
persecution in Sudan, and that the police assault had scattered families,
resulting in the separation of children from their parents. International
law prohibits the return of refugees to places where they face
persecution and obliges states to ensure that children not be separated
from their families.

"It's clear that the brutal tactics of the security forces left families
separated and vital documents such as refugee cards destroyed or
missing," said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights

On September 29, 2005, several hundred Sudanese refugees started a protest in a park opposite the Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque, in the Mohandissen area of Cairo, near the offices of UNHCR. The protestors, who included asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants, were demanding improvements in their living conditions, protection from return to Sudan, and resettlement in a European or North American country, among other demands.

By the end of December, the number of demonstrators had exceeded 2,500 and the Egyptian authorities indicated that they intended to relocate the refugees to the outskirts of Cairo. On the evening of 29 December, police forces surrounded the area while last minute negotiations reportedly took place, involving leaders of the demonstration and officials from the Ministry of Interior. At around 3.30 am on December 30, the police forces started using water cannons to disperse the demonstration and subsequently beat the demonstrators.

Amnesty International considers that international standards require that the investigation should look into abuses by the police, including all deaths, and the circumstances surrounding them, as well as the alleged pattern of excessive or unnecessary use of force. Amnesty International said the independence and impartiality of the investigation would be strengthened by the participation of international experts. The Egyptian government should ensure that all those officials responsible for committing, ordering or failing reasonably to prevent any human rights violations should be brought to justice. They also should ensure that victims or their families receive adequate reparation.

Amnesty International is also calling on the Egyptian authorities to ensure that police comply with international standards governing policing activities, including the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and receive adequate training on fundamental human rights, in particular those protecting the rights to life and to physical and mental integrity of all individuals, among other rights.

President Mubarak subsequently said that the attorney general would
look into the incident, but government officials have consistently blamed
the demonstrators for provoking the violence and directly or indirectly
causing the deaths and injuries. In its letter to President Mubarak,
Human Rights Watch said that an independent commission was needed
in order to probe responsibility of high government officials, including
Interior Minister Habib al-`Adli, for ordering and directing the attack.

"Previous government inquiries into police violence against Egyptian
protestors have consistently exonerated Interior Ministry officials,"
Frelick said. "In this case the precipitous return of hundreds of victims
and witnesses would make any investigation into the violence of
December 30 an empty gesture."


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