Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Washington) -- Amnesty International called on the U.S. government today to immediately halt the transfer of U.S.-manufactured ammunition to Egypt amid the Egyptian security forces’ troubling and repeated violent dispersals of protesters.
Data obtained by Amnesty International shows that the United States has repeatedly transferred ammunition to Egypt despite security forces' violent crackdown on protesters.
“U.S. arms shipments to Egypt’s security forces must be stopped until there is certainty that tear gas and other munitions, weaponry or other equipment are not linked to bloodshed on Egyptian streets,” said Brian Wood of Amnesty International.
A shipment for the Egyptian Ministry of Interior arrived from the United States on November 26, carrying at least seven tons of "ammunition smoke, ”which includes chemical irritants and riot control agents such as tear gas.
It was one of at least three arms deliveries to Egypt by the U.S. company Combined Systems, Inc. since the brutal crackdown on the "25 January Revolution" protesters.
On April 8, Combined Systems, Inc. shipped 21 tons of ammunition (42,035 pounds) from the port of Wilmington, N.C. to the Egyptian port of Suez.
On August 8, another shipment of 17.9 tons of ammunition (35,793 pounds) was loaded from New York and transferred to Port Said in Egypt.
According to the commercial trade database, PIERS, both these shipments were listed under the product code of bullets, cartridges and shells, but the latter was also described as "ammunition smoke".
A third shipment, aboard Danish ship the Marianne Danica, which is owned by the Danish company H.Folmer & Co, arrived at the port of Adabiya near Suez on November 26.
This shipment was organized by the defense logistics company, Nico Shipping. The munitions were loaded at the U.S. Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point, North Carolina and left on October 13, according to shipping information tracked by Transarms for Amnesty International.
Combined Systems, Inc., which is based in Jamestown, Pa. manufactures a range of munitions for military forces and law enforcement agencies, including impact munitions such as rubber batons and irritant munitions such as CS tear gas.
On December 1, a U.S. State Department spokesperson confirmed that “export licenses were approved to two American companies, most recently in July, for the export of tear gas and other non-lethal riot control agents to the Egyptian government. .
"These licenses were authorized during a period where the Egyptian government responded to protests by using excessive and often lethal force. It is inconceivable that the U.S. authorities did not know of evidence of widely documented abuses by the Egyptian security forces. These licenses should not have been granted," said Wood.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on November 29, “we haven’t seen any real concrete proof that the Egyptian authorities were misusing tear gas.”
As recently as November, protests against the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) were violently dispersed with tear gas, resulting in at least two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries.
Many of the cartridges and grenades picked up by protestors in Tahrir Square were US-made tear gas, including those marked Combined Systems Inc. or Combined Tactical Systems, which is the company’s law enforcement division.
The Egyptian security forces’ use of foreign-made tear gas and other ammunition is a clear example of the urgent need for the establishment and implementation of an effective global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
Amnesty International is calling for munitions use for law enforcement operations like tear gas to be included among the conventional arms to be regulated by the treaty.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.
For more information, please visit: www.amnestyusa.org.