(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Evidence gathered by Amnesty International suggests that security forces have used excessive force against supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi. Since last Friday, at least 88 people have lost their lives in protests and political violence, including three members of the security forces, with around 1,500 wounded.
At least 51 Morsi supporters were killed yesterday during clashes outside the Republican Guard headquarters.
"Though the military said that protesters initiated the clashes on Monday and that no women and children were injured, first-hand accounts illustrate a very different portrait," said Frank Jannuzi, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. "While some protesters may have used violence, the response was disproportionate."
The army and Interior Ministry said yesterday that the violence followed an attack by protesters around the Republican Guard Club and announced that a military officer and two members of the security forces were killed.
However, accounts collected from eyewitnesses contradict this version of events. Amnesty International has visited morgues, hospitals and sites of violence in Cairo and Alexandria to gather testimonies from injured protesters and relatives of victims. Its findings suggest the use of disproportionate force by the security forces, including intentional lethal force. Many of those killed and injured had been shot in the head and upper body with shotgun pellets and live ammunition.
"The Egyptian authorities must end the military and police's use of grossly disproportionate force," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Program. "They must ensure an investigation which all sides see as independent and impartial is promptly conducted to ensure any alleged army abuses are not covered up."
"The Egyptian authorities must also ensure that proper autopsy and medical reports are issued to facilitate thorough investigations and ensure access to justice and reparations," said Hadj Sahraoui.
Amnesty International's fears of further bloodshed are heightened by statements by Muslim Brotherhood leaders vowing to continue protesting until the former President is reinstated, calling on their supporters to "rise up" and "resist," despite the ongoing deaths and injuries.
"As politicians squabble over who started the violence, it's clear that unless the security forces are reined-in and clear orders given on the use of force we're looking at a recipe for disaster."
A woman in her forties who was wounded on Monday said the violence began at as she finished prayers beside a tent housing women and children:
"I saw men running towards us, and then the teargas started falling. I did not know what to do or where to take the children. I couldn't go back to the tents because we would suffocate and I didn't know where to run because of the shooting…There were shots and teargas coming from all directions…There were men lying on the ground in pools of blood in front of me, I just stayed there under the tree praying…I thought that was it."
Eventually, the woman managed to escape down a side street.
Amnesty International interviewed several other women who had shotgun pellet wounds in the upper body including the back, and a child at a Cairo hospital with wounds in his head, face and legs.
The deaths yesterday followed shootings on July 5, when security forces shot dead four people during protests in front of the Republican Guard.
The organization also found that security forces had intervened too late or not at all during clashes between pro and anti-Morsi supporters in Cairo and Alexandria on July 5 leading to a loss of life on both sides. At least eight people died during clashes between rival camps that lasted around five hours in Tahrir Square and the district of al-Manial in Cairo on Friday, with the security forces absent from the scene.
In Alexandria on Friday, at least 17 were killed in the Sidi Gaber area. Security forces arrived on the scene after some people had already been killed. Mohamed Badr al-Din, a local resident, was stabbed and thrown from a roof by Morsi supporters.
A survivor described how he escaped shortly before Mohamed Badr al-Din was thrown from the roof:
"I was chased by a big bearded guy with a huge knife and black flag…He started beating me, and raised a knife saying 'God is Great.' I escaped from him by jumping down an air shaft, an opening in the middle of the building's roof."
Local residents said calls for the police to intervene were ignored.
"Security forces must maintain security and protect lives," said Jannuzi. "Yet they appear to have added to the bloodshed by utilizing extreme force and ignoring cries for help. Anyone who attacked peaceful protesters must be held accountable."
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.