(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – As Egypt braces for major rival political rallies this Friday, its security forces must do more to protect protesters from violent attacks and avoid the use of excessive force against peaceful gatherings, Amnesty International said.
"Security forces have repeatedly failed to protect protesters, bystanders and residents from attacks by armed assailants," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International's deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program.
"More than 180 people have been killed in violent clashes or other political violence since June 30, when mass demonstrations were held calling for the fall of former President Mohamed Morsi. Since then, political violence has escalated between supporters and opponents of the deposed president leading to an increasing loss of life. Continued failure to properly police rival street protests will lead to further bloodshed and an escalation of human rights abuses."
A call by General Abdel Fatah Sisi, minister of defense, for mass street protests on Friday to grant the army a mandate to quell "terrorism and violence" has raised fears of further bloodshed in the coming days. Supporters of the deposed president will hold a rival rally on the same day.
The general's call raises concerns that the security forces may be preparing to use force to end sit-ins and demonstrations by Morsi's supporters. On July 8, at least 51 pro-Morsi protesters were killed in the vicinity of the Republican Guard Club in Cairo as a result of excessive and disproportionate lethal force by security forces.
In recent days, Amnesty International has documented the repeated use of firearms by both opponents and supporters of the deposed president, including in Cairo and Mansoura. The organization is urging leaders across the political spectrum to denounce human rights abuses by their supporters and call on them to end violent attacks on rival protesters.
In one incident during a pro-Morsi march on July 19 in Mansoura, security forces failed to intervene when unknown assailants attacked a pro-Morsi march and three protesters – two women and a young girl – were shot dead. Another woman protester was seriously injured after sustaining a blow to the head.
Clashes in greater Cairo in the early hours of Tuesday morning left at least 12 people dead including opponents and supporters of deposed President Morsi, as well as a few bystanders. Nine people, including Morsi supporters and local residents opposing his presidency, were killed as a result of live fire during clashes in Giza.
On July 22, anti-Morsi supporter Amr Eid Abel Nabi, 21, was shot and killed when supporters of the deposed president approached Tahrir Square, the symbolic center of opposition to Mohamed Morsi. A video filmed by a journalist shows apparent Morsi supporters – wearing helmets and armed with sticks and guns – firing intermittently in the direction of Tahrir Square.
Israa Lotfy Youssef, an 18-year-old university student was among those killed in Giza. She was attending the pro-Morsi sit-in on Monday night to pray with the rest of her family.
Her brother told Amnesty International: "At about 5 a.m., we heard gunfire, and people were screaming and saying that the shooting was coming from the Faculty of Engineering Building. At that moment, amid the confusion, my mother went back into the tent and found Israa lying on the ground in a pool of her own blood."
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.