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Egypt's military rulers eroding rights: Amnesty.

Summary: Egypt's interim military rulers have completely failed to live up to their revolutionary promises.

BEIRUT: Egypt's interim military rulers have completely failed to live up to their revolutionary promises, engaging in a catalogue of human rights abuses that have led many to fear one repressive regime has simply been replaced by another, Amnesty International said in a report released Tuesday.

Amnesty found the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, which assumed power after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February, had ruthlessly suppressed freedom of expression, imprisoned thousands of civilians, continued to use interrogation, torture and excessive force against civilians and failed to protect women and religious minorities from discrimination.

It said SCAF had met few of the commitments made in its many public statements and had expanded or added to wide-ranging powers under the new constitution that had in fact worsened the situation in some areas.

The publication of the 63-page report, "Broken Promises: Egypt's Military Rulers Erode Human Rights," coincides with news that at least 24 people were killed and over 1,500 injured over four days of clashes between army and anti-SCAF protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in Alexandria.

"By using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protest and expanding the remit of Mubarak's Emergency Law, the SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the Jan. 25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of," Philip Luther, Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa acting director, said in a statement. "The human rights balance sheet for SCAF shows that after nine months in charge of Egypt, the aims and aspirations of the Jan. 25 revolution have been crushed. The brutal and heavy-handed response to protests in the last few days bears all the hallmarks of the Mubarak era."

Amnesty International found in its review that some 12,000 civilians have been tried before military courts since January, with at least 13 people sentenced to death. Charges against defendants have included "thuggery," "breaking the curfew," "damaging property" and "insulting the army."

Arbitrary restrictions on the media and freedom of expression have resulted in scores of journalists, bloggers and activists being detained by military prosecutors as well as harassment and censorship for material deemed critical of military rulers, under new laws which Amnesty said "paid lip service to respecting freedom of expression."

It found civil society organizations and NGOs critical of the military rulers had been subjected to smearing and intimidation, and threatened with prosecution for "treason" or "conspiracy" for accepting foreign funding.

It noted an apparent misuse of the controversial Emergency Law and new laws apparently aimed at repressing peaceful protests and freedom of association and expression.

The report also found that SCAF had failed to deliver on a commitment to protect protesters "regardless of their views," instead using excessive and lethal force to dispel demonstrations, resulting in injury and death, and introducing new laws to criminalize strikes and peaceful protests.

Detailing eight demonstrations, excluding the latest weekend clashes, the report found at least 33 people had been killed and thousands injured during clashes with military personnel and protesters since March.

Twenty-eight people including one soldier are believed to have been killed on Oct. 9 after security forces dispersed a protest by Coptic Christians. Medics told Amnesty International that casualties included bullet wounds and crushed body parts, after people were run over by speeding armored vehicles. Instead of ordering an independent investigation, the army announced that it would carry out the investigation itself and moved quickly to suppress criticism.

Amnesty International also said it had seen consistent reports that the security forces were employing armed "baltagiya," or "thugs," to attack protesters in a well-known tactic employed under the rule of Hosni Mubarak.

Torture and human rights abuses in detention have continued with virtual impunity under the SCAF in Egyptian police stations, prisons and detention centers, Amnesty reported, noting suspicious deaths in custody and inadequate investigation into forced "virginity tests" on female protesters.

The report also found a rise in discrimination against women and Coptic Christians had been exacerbated by military and emergency justice systems to address communal violence and a failure to repeal discriminatory legislation.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Nov 22, 2011
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