(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Egyptian police and security forces are failing to protect protesters and bystanders from violence amid the country's political strife, Amnesty International said today, on the brink of the army's threatened intervention to resolve the crisis.
Amnesty International researchers in Egypt gathered evidence that security forces have not been intervening or were dispatched too late to stop violence during the clashes. Violence between President Morsi's supporters and opponents first broke out across the country on June 28.
"The security forces should have been more than ready to prevent and stop the kinds of deadly clashes that we've seen in the past three days," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.
"It is difficult to imagine that they could not have predicted the violence. This suspicious failure to prevent loss of life is a callous failure of their duty to protect lives and uphold human rights," said Hadj Sahraoui. "Our evidence raises questions as to whether the failure to protect all protesters, regardless of their political affiliation, is the result of a deliberate policy by the security apparatus."
Since June 30, more than 30 people have been killed in the protests and ensuing political violence, which has come amid mass protests by supporters and opponents of President Morsi.
Ahead of the protests, the Interior Ministry, which holds key responsibility for the security forces, made contradictory statements. According to media reports, the Ministry announced that it would not protect buildings belonging to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement and would only intervene where public buildings or prisons were threatened.
While the Ministry announced that it will remain impartial and protect all citizens, it expressed its support of the army ultimatum calling on political parties to resolve the crisis, widely seen as a rebuff to President Morsi.
Tuesday's violence in several locations in greater Cairo left 18 people dead according to official statistics and continued for hours before the army was deployed. According to eyewitnesses, intermittent clashes around Cairo University between supporters of the president – who were holding a protest nearby – and unidentified attackers took place throughout the day. They intensified following the President's speech in the late evening. Evidence points to the use of live ammunition – leading to over 600 injured – including a police officer.
Today, the Minister of Interior removed the head of security of Giza for his inadequate response to the clashes.
"In light of the recent deaths this is too little too late," said Hadj Sahraoui. "It's imperative that the security forces act now act professionally and take seriously their responsibility to ensure the safety of all Egyptians."
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 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.