Human rights organisations worldwide have condemned a crackdown on demonstrations in Egypt amid continuing protests against poverty, police abuse and corruption.
Reports of ongoing demonstrations in Egypt today follow a day of protest in Cairo, Alexandria and other major cities that saw at least three deaths, rubber bullets and tear gas employed against crowds, beatings of detainees and at least 500 protesters arrested.
Amnesty International repeated its call on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using excessive force against demonstrators, and criticised the actions of security forces two days ago.
“We witnessed reckless policing yesterday with the security forces relying on tear gas and using rubber bullet as a first resort” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director for Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme. “Security forces must be held in check.”
Demonstrations on 26 January 2011 started peacefully but stone throwing and scuffles broke out when the security forces started forcibly dispersing demonstrators.
Three demonstrators were reportedly killed as well as one policeman in the largest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in decades.
The Ministry of the Interior issued a warning that protests today will not be tolerated and those arrested will be prosecuted.
“We fear that the Ministry’s warning signals the authorities' readiness to unleash the full ferocity of the security forces with their track record of abuses” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Instead of threatening demonstrators, Amnesty is urging the Egyptian authorities to open a proper investigation into the killings of protestors and hold accountable anyone found responsible.
The Ministry of Interior announced today that 500 protesters have been arrested.
Amnesty says it is concerned that some have been detained simply for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Others who may have been arrested on suspicion of violent acts must be charged with a recognisably criminal offence and tried in fair proceedings or otherwise released.
The globally recognised human rights agency has also received reports accusing the Egyptian authorities of blocking Twitter, and the video-sharing website Bambuser. The organisation has also received reports that mobile phone networks were blocked in some areas and was unable to reach a number of human rights activist on the phone.
Twitter and Bambuser have officially confirmed that they were blocked in Egypt on 25 January.
“These blocks on communication show that the government is trying to stop the world from knowing what is happening in Egypt, and to cut off demonstrators from each other,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.
Undue restrictions and sweeping measures under the nearly 30 years of state of emergency have routinely been used by the Egyptian authorities to quash the legitimate exercise of the rights to peaceful protest and assembly in violation of Article 21 of the ICCPR which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly.