By Reem Abdellatif
CAIRO: Amnesty International condemned on Thursday a “ship of shame” carrying a cargo of weapons with explosives from the United States en route to Egypt.
The group called on Egypt to refuse the shipment because of the risk they will be used “to commit human rights violations.”
The rights watchdog says the Dutch-flagged vessel, MV Schippersgracht, which left the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), is “carrying a class of dangerous goods that covers cartridges for weapons, fuses and other ammunition” and is headed to Egypt’s Port Said.
The Egyptian port city saw one of the worst cases of football violence that left over 70 dead and hundreds injured. Policemen have been implicated in the case. Eleven more were killed as protesters clashed with the police outside the ministry of interior in following days.
“This ship of shame should not be allowed to unload its dangerous cargo in Egypt, and there is a substantial risk that this is what it plans to do,” said Brian Wood, Amnesty’s head of arms control.
“There is a clear pattern that weapons from previous ships have recently been used to commit serious human rights violations by the Egyptian security forces, and yet the US is recklessly sending a constant flow of arms to Egypt.”
Over 100 were killed and thousands injured in Egypt in violent security crackdowns on protests and sit-ins in the past year. The majority of the fatalities occurred between October 2011 and February 2012.
Egyptian security forces, including the military, have used “excessive” and “lethal” force over the past year against protesters, Amnesty stated.
Citing a series of substantial shipments of arms that the US has supplied to Egypt, Amnesty pointed out that just between December 2011 and February 2012, the Egyptian Procurement Office (EPO) of the Armament Authority, Ministry of Defense transported 349 tons of military and dual use equipment with a value of at least $35 million on seven US-flagged cargo ships, managed by American President Lines Maritime Ltd.
“The violent repression of protesters at the hands of Egyptian security forces is sadly one of many examples as to why the world needs a bullet-proof Arms Trade Treaty. As the world’s largest arms exporter, the US in particular needs to match its rhetoric on human rights with genuine action, something it has so far failed to do,” Woods said.
Amnesty has been following MV Schippersgracht over the past two months.
The vessel previously arrived in late February at the US Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point (MOTSU), Southport in North Carolina, one of the largest ammunition ports in the US and the Department of Defense’s key Atlantic Coast ammunition shipping point, according to Amnesty.
Earlier this month, the ship left MOTSU hauling a class of “dangerous” goods, the group said.
“Amnesty International is calling for ammunitions to be included among the conventional arms to be regulated by the treaty, a move the US currently opposes,” the group said in their statement.
Amnesty also addressed a letter Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her to withhold certification required to release military aid to Egypt until the Egyptian government demonstrates its commitment to protecting human rights.
“Given the human rights violations in Egypt, the US State Department cannot in good faith certify to the US Congress that the Egyptian government is protecting human rights. We urge you not to make such a certification, and we also oppose any waiving of this certification requirement,” the letter read.
Amnesty International said it opposed any of the $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Egypt being used for the purchase of weapons, ammunition, military equipment and military vehicles that can be used by Egypt’s government to suppress human rights.
“The United States should not place more weapons in the hands of the Egyptian security forces that have shown ongoing disregard for the rights of the Egyptian people,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director, Amnesty International USA. “It would be flat-out wrong and shameful for the United States to falsely certify that the Egyptian government is protecting human rights – and would send a dangerous signal to waive that certification requirement.” –Additional reporting by agencies.