CAIRO: Video footage of the crackdown on protesters by security forces suggests that military police were aiming to punish demonstrators rather maintain law and order, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
“Available video footage, showing harsh and prolonged beatings, indicated that military police were using excessive force gratuitously,” Amnesty’s statement read.
Violence has been raging in Cairo since Friday, when military forces guarding the Cabinet building near Tahrir Square cracked down on a three-week-old peaceful sit-in to demand Egypt’s ruling generals immediately hand power to a civilian authority.
“It is clear that either the military police has been given orders to disperse demonstrators at any cost, or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) does not control the army and security forces. Either scenario is equally worrying,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.
Amnesty cited the notorious videos showing women being dragged, one of whom was stripped, as they were severely beaten and stamped on.
“The army, which has adopted a paternalistic attitude towards women since it has been in charge, has singled out women protesters for humiliation and degrading treatment. The aim of behavior like this seems to be to deter women from demonstrating,” said Sahraoui.
“This is sadly in the same vein as the forced ‘virginity tests’ which the armed forces used against female protesters earlier this year,” she said.
Amnesty condemned the excessive use of force against protesters, and called on global arms suppliers to halt the transfer of small arms, ammunition and other repressive equipment to the Egyptian military and security forces.
“It can no longer be considered acceptable to supply the Egyptian army with the types of weaponry, munitions and other equipment that are being used to help carry out the brutal acts we have seen used against protesters,” Sahraoui said.
Earlier this month, Amnesty had called for enforcing an effective global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), in light of Egyptian security forces’ use of foreign-made teargas and other ammunition.
Amnesty also suggested that SCAF has been targeting journalists and others filming the events to prevent them from documenting army abuses and in an effort to portray protesters as rioters.
In a press conference Monday, SCAF blamed the recent violence on provocateurs with a systematic plan to bring Egypt down, saying military forces exercised self-restraint in the deadly crackdown.
SCAF General Adel Emara justified the crackdown by saying that there is a difference between a “pure” protester with legitimate demands and provocateurs.
Amnesty also cited statements made by one Egyptian army official suggesting that protesters in front of the Cabinet should be burned in Hitler’s ovens, saying that “such statements could only be construed as awarding the army and security forces a license for abuse,” the statement read.
The recent events are the third time peaceful protests have turned deadly since October, Amnesty said, bringing the total numbers of deaths in protests since then to at least 84 people.
“There has been welcome international condemnation of the SCAF’s actions but more than words, we need to see concrete action by Egypt’s international partners to stop the abuses,” said Sahraoui.