Rights groups condemn terrorist explosions, concerned by increasing violence and excessive force by security forces

In Statements and Position Papers by CIHRS

The undersigned organizations condemn the terrorist explosions and other acts of violence which have occurred in Egypt in the past two days. We express our deep regret over the killing of at least five individuals and the injury of dozens more as a result of these terrorist bombings, which shook several areas of Cairo and Giza governorates on Friday, January 24, 2014. We further lament the deaths of some 14 individuals and the injury of dozens more during protests and confrontations in various parts of the country during recent days, with most of these clashes occurring between security forces and protestors. The undersigned organizations demand that the perpetrators of these acts be swiftly apprehended and brought to justice.

Photo from: Alshorouk

Photo from: Alshorouk

The undersigned organizations fear that the spread of such terrorist attacks to the heart of the capital on multiple occasions indicates that the government’s stated determination to fight terrorism does not go beyond press statements or arbitrary confrontations by security forces against those who may have little to do with these crimes. This situation threatens to lead to even more serious human rights abuses.

The undersigned organizations have repeatedly warned that the failed counter-terrorism policies of successive governments in Egypt would lead to the spread of terrorist acts across the country. We cautioned that the incidence of terrorism that was initially limited to Sinai would find its way to Cairo and that neither security confrontations alone nor exceptional, extra-legal measures would eliminate it. Yesterday’s terrorist attacks and the bombing of the Cairo security directorate – just one month after a similar bombing of the security directorate in Daqahliya – demonstrates that the security apparatus has failed not only to protect the lives of its citizens, but also its own institutions. Instead, it has used the purported aim of “countering terrorism” as justification to commit arbitrary arrests and restrict freedoms. Every time the security apparatus conducts such a campaign of arbitrary arrests – in order to placate public discontent over the incompetence of the security bodies in protecting citizens and the state’s institutions – it creates another situation ripe for the real proponents of terrorism to undertake a new attack that claims more innocent lives.

The undersigned organizations note that the state has yet to take serious measures according to the law in order to confront the terrorist acts, the second wave of which began in 2012 under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood and has continued following their removal from power. Instead of conducting diligent investigations into these crimes in order to bring those who are truly behind them to justice, the state has launched a media blitz to stir up public opinion and preempted the findings of investigations by hastily naming those whom it considers may be responsible and issuing arbitrary accusations against them. The authorities even used the “fight against terrorism” to promote a “yes” vote for the new constitution in the recent referendum. Rather than taking serious security measures to confront the spread of support for terrorism in Egypt, the security forces are pouring their efforts into a crackdown that targets members of the peaceful opposition and youth activists who clearly oppose terrorism. Security forces have even raided human rights organizations and beaten and arrested their employees, who themselves are deeply committed to denouncing terrorism.

In addition to these bombings, Egypt has witnessed over the past few days a sharp increase in armed confrontations occurring during gatherings and protests, most of which appear to have been held by the Muslim Brotherhood. These clashes have led to the deaths of some 14 individuals and the injury of dozens more in various places across Egypt. The undersigned organizations condemn the excessive force used to disperse student protests and denounce the repeated attacks by security forces on universities, including Cairo, Mansoura, al-Azhar, and Alexandria Universities. We express our concern over the increasing violence in general and the use of excessive force by security forces, particularly in the context of demonstrations and political protests.

We as human rights organizations have previously warned that terrorism cannot be successfully confronted through security solutions alone, nor through the expansion of exceptional laws which restrict public freedoms or through propaganda in the media. Rather, addressing terrorism requires that a more comprehensive vision be adopted which confronts the religious discourse that praises terrorism. This vision must also take into consideration the economic, social, and political circumstances in which terrorism emerges and spreads. Counterterrorism efforts must not include arbitrary measures but rather be conducted within a framework that respects the law and individual rights throughout the process of identifying the real perpetrators.

Countering terrorism also necessitates a genuine, comprehensive reform of the security establishment as well as the development of the capacity of the police to conduct criminal investigations while respecting human rights. The frequent recourse to exceptional laws and measures – including illegal practices – must be ended, as it has not only undermined basic human rights but also blunted the ability of the security establishment to collect evidence and conduct serious investigations. Indeed, this reliance on security confrontations and exceptional laws to confront terrorism has left the perpetrators of such crimes as the bombings in Sharm al-Sheikh in 2005 and of the Two Saints Church in 2010 at large, untouched by justice – even as members of the peaceful opposition are imprisoned.

Signatory organizations

  1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS)
  2. Andalus institute for tolerance and anti-violence studies
  3. Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development Center (ACT)
  4. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
  5. Centre for Egyptian Women Legal Assistance
  6. Egyptian Foundation for Advancement of Childhood Conditions
  7. Egyptian initiative for personal rights (EIPR)
  8. Hisham mubarak law centre
  9. Misryon Against Religious Discrimination
  10.  National Community of Human Rights and Law
  11. Nazra for Feminist Studies
  12. New Woman Foundation
  13. The Egyptian Center on Economic and Social Rights (ECESR)

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