Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Concern across the board

International parties urged dialogue among conflicting political powers as the only way out of the surge in violence in Egypt, Doaa El-Bey reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

Various international parties echoed concern over the rise of violence in Egypt and called for dialogue between the government and political parties in order to restore calm.
The United States expressed concern over the latest developments in Egypt. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland stated early this week that Washington strongly condemned the recent violence and regarded it as a clear sign that a large number of Egyptians are frustrated with the direction of political reform as well as the pace of economic reform in Egypt.
While Nuland emphasised that the US counseled with the government as well as the opposition, she added that these issues needed to be dealt with peacefully through dialogue.
“We support the right of peaceful protest, but it needs to stay peaceful and security forces also have to exercise self-restraint,” Nuland added.
With regard to the state of emergency, Nuland said that given Egypt’s history, this has to be handled carefully, and that what’s most important is that the Egyptian people see that their government behaves democratically with regard to their human rights and that their human rights are protected under the rule of law going forward.
The state of emergency was imposed in Egypt for more than 30 year, ever since the death of former president Anwar Al-Sadat in 1981. It was scrapped in May last year before the election of President Mohamed Morsi.
However, Morsi re-imposed it and set a curfew for a month in the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez where rioting left at least 50 people dead last month.
Last week, Nuland stated that the US was gratified to hear President Morsi’s invitation to political parties for dialogue, adding that political forces in Egypt should “avail themselves of this opportunity to work together through dialogue to deal with the underlying issues.”
Italy’s Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi described the situation in Egypt as ‘‘very much of concern”. Terzi said at the end of the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels last Friday that patience is required from all parties.
He also sent a message to the Egyptian government that he is expecting a “clear and constitutional approach” to the present issues in Egypt including respect of human rights and the right of minorities in Egypt.
High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton stated that the EU is closely following the developments in Egypt and in contact with the government and the opposition.
Ashton added that comprehensive dialogue is important for the future of Egypt.
Ashton also expressed concern about the future of the country after the violent clashes in Port Said. She said in a statement issued late last week, “It is with great concern that the high representative heard about the violent clashes in Port Said leaving several people killed”.
She urged the Egyptian authorities to restore calm and order and calls on all sides to show restraint in the best interest of the country at this delicate time in its democratic transition.
Last week, the UN and Amnesty International (AI) condemned police brutality and expressed concern over the deteriorating state of affairs that Egypt witnessed while the people were marking the second anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay expressed “alarm” and urged all parties to hold a serious dialogue to halt the spread of violence.
Pillay called on the government to “urgently rethink its responses to the unrest which have ranged from excessive use of force on one hand, to complete failure to protect people, especially women, on the other”.
Pillay said that given the current fragile and unstable state of the nation, “each missed opportunity to reach national consensus and each example of excessive use of force by security forces is aggravating an already frighteningly tense and volatile situation.”
She also condemned sexual harassment in public areas. “I deplore the fact that sexual violence is permitted to occur with apparent impunity in a public square, and that the authorities have failed to prevent these attacks or to bring more than a single prosecution against the hundreds of men involved in these vicious attacks.”
Morsi’s call for dialogue was welcomed by Pillay, who urged him to “listen to the demonstrators’ demands, tackle grassroots problems, address key issues raised by the opposition with regard to the recently adopted constitution and to take immediate measures to solve the numerous serious problems currently affecting the judicial system.”
AI concluded in a report titled “Egypt: Uprising commemoration unleashed death and destruction” that security forces had used excessive force when dealing with protests and urged police against using lethal force “unless it is unavoidable to protect human life”.
The report was based on observations by an Amnesty researcher who concluded security forces in Suez had used deadly force in various situations which protesters posed no threat to the lives of the officers or others.
Amnesty noted that security forces did not follow protocol established by Egyptian legislation which, “while falling short of international standards, sets some limits on the use of firearms by police, including requiring the issuing of audible warnings and aiming at the feet.”
“As more protests continue to commemorate the bloodiest day of the ‘25 January Revolution’, the Egyptian authorities must issue clear orders to those policing protests to respect freedom of peaceful assembly and avoid unnecessary or excessive force,” said AI’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui. “They must make it absolutely clear that those who use arbitrary and excessive force will be brought to justice.”
Hadj Sahraoui demanded authorities ensure that investigations into the violence are carried out by an independent and impartial body that is not implicated in the killing, adding that “recent events in Egypt demonstrate that there is no way forward unless there is a real accountability for police abuse and justice is delivered by an independent judiciary.”
In response to emergency law enforced in the Suez canal governorates, Amnesty “urged Egyptian authorities to consider whether less intrusive measures would be better suited to restore order”.
In another development, the US and British embassies in Cairo closed their consular services last week as violence nearby both embassies continued to rage between security forces and demonstrators.

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