Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Tragic Human Tug-of-Rope

In one of those incidents that seem so absurd that mark so many human rights violation, a Sudanese refugee was the rope in a "tug-of-war" between an Egyptian and Israeli soldier on Aug. 2. The refugee was attempting to cross the border fence into Israel, an example of just how desperate the situation has gotten for Sudanese in Egypt. Unfortunately, the Egyptian soldier won the contest, and the refugee is believed to be one of four Sudanese who were killed by Egyptian soldiers on that day.

Here's Amnesty's statement on the case:

The lives of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who daily try to cross the border from Egypt into Israel, may be in danger, following the use of excessive force by law enforcement officials in the area. This follows the reported death of two men believed to be of Sudanese origin, who were allegedly shot dead by Egyptian security forces as they attempted to cross the border during the night of 1 August 2007.

Egyptian official sources have denied that the shootings took place, although they have confirmed that two men were arrested by the Egyptian border police on 2 August, one of whom is said to be seriously injured. Amnesty International is concerned that Egypt and Israel may be sending law enforcement officials to the area who do not have the necessary training for dealing with crowd-control situations, thus putting the lives of more migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at risk.

Excessive use of force by the Egyptian security forces has increased over the last few weeks. Prior to this incident, a Sudanese woman died on 22 July 2007, after allegedly being shot by Egyptian security forces while she was attempting to cross the border with Israel. Other Sudanese, including an 11-year old girl, and a woman from the Ivory Coast were also injured at the scene. Twenty-two others from Sudan, Ivory Coast and Eritrea were also arrested by the Egyptian authorities.

Thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, who mostly come from Sudan and Eritrea as well as other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, try to cross from Egypt to Israel each year. Their numbers have been increasing in recent months and according to the Israeli Minister of Interior Roni Bar-On some 300 try to cross into Israel every week. Hundreds more are believed to be preparing to try to cross the same border.

Amnesty is calling for people to contact the Egyptian Embassy and President Mubarak. We want them to assure us that they will meet their international obligations to protect the lives of migrants and not use unneccessary force. We also want them to conduct an impartial and independent investigation of these alleged killings.

Here's Mubarak's address -- his e-mail account most recently isn't working again --

His Excellency Mohammad Hosni Mubarak
President of the Arab Republic of Egypt
'Abedine Palace

Fax: +20223901998

The Egyptian embassy can be reached at 202.895.5400

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Message to President Mubarak: MB Trials Must be Open

Amnesty International announced today that it has written to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, urging him to ensure that independent observers are permitted access to the trial of 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, scheduled to resume before the Supreme Military Court in Cairo on Sunday.

The organization made this call following two earlier trial hearings when legal observers sent by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations were barred from entering the court.

"We look to President Mubarak, as Egypt's highest authority, to open the doors to this important trial," said Amnesty International's Secretary General Irene Khan. "He should clear the way for it to receive the scrutiny it deserves."

Amnesty International's trial observer, Jordanian lawyer Samieh Khreis, was previously among a number of international and Egyptian legal observers who were turned away by security officials when they attempted to enter the Supreme Military Court during its last session on 15 July. Observers were also turned away when they attempted to attend a previous session of the trial on 3 June 2007.

Egyptian authorities have given no explanation to date for their refusal to allow independent observers to attend the trial, adding to concerns about its fairness.

The 40 defendants facing trial on 5 August 2007 include leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who face charges of terrorism and money-laundering that could incur the death penalty.

All are being tried before a military court on the express instructions of President Mubarak -- using powers under a 1966 law -- although none hold any position within Egypt's armed forces.

Seventeen of the 40 were previously tried but acquitted on the same charges by a Cairo criminal court.

"We unreservedly oppose the Egyptian government's use of military courts to try civilians," said Irene Khan.

"In Egypt's military courts judges are serving members of the armed forces and military courts cannot be seen as independent and impartial tribunals for civilians. Their use for highly-charged political cases -- such as the current trial of leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood -- suggests that the defendants may be denied a fair trial."

"The fact that the government has so far denied international observers access to the court only exacerbates our grave concerns." Ms Khan said

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