Friday, May 12, 2006

Amnesty International Statement on Beatings of Cairo Protesters

Amnesty International is greatly concerned by today’s events in Cairo when riot police violently dispersed hundreds of peaceful protestors demonstrating in support of two senior judges who are being disciplined for criticising last year’s parliamentary elections.

According to reports, riot police and men in plain clothes who were assisting them used excessive force against the demonstrators, beating them with truncheons and carrying out other assaults. This occurred when the protestors attempted to make their way to the High Court building, where the two judges, Mahmoud Mekki and Hisham Bastawisi, were due to appear to face accusations that they violated judicial rules by publicly criticising fraud and other irregularities during the elections. Tens of protestors were arrested and several journalists seeking to report the events were also briefly detained. A cameraman working for Al Jazeera was reportedly assaulted by police who also seized his equipment.

Police also used sealed off the area in which the hearing was to take place and used force against peaceful demonstrators when the two judges first appeared before the disciplinary panel on 27 April (see Egypt: Disciplinary action against judges a challenge to judicial independence, AI Index: MDE 12/007/2006, 28 April 2006), when the case against them was postponed until today to enable defence lawyers to review the case files against them. The two judges refused to attend today’s hearing in protest at the actions taken to prevent their supporters being present and the disciplinary panel postponed the case for a further week.

Amnesty International is calling on the Egyptian authorities to order an independent investigation into reports of excessive use of force by police and to ensure that any police officers or other officials alleged to have violated human rights are held to account.

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