Egyptian President Husni Mubarak should prevent the threatened deportation of hundreds of Sudanese demonstrators arrested following the December 30 police attack on their encampment in Cairo, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch again called for an independent commission to investigate responsibility for the violence in the incident in which at least 27 persons, including children, died.
In a letter to President Mubarak, Human Rights Watch today expressed concern that some of the 645 persons slated for return could be at risk of persecution in Sudan, and that the police assault had scattered families, resulting in the separation of children from their parents. International law prohibits the return of refugees to places where they face persecution and obliges states to ensure that children not be separated from their families.
“It’s clear that the brutal tactics of the security forces left families separated and vital documents such as refugee cards destroyed or missing,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch.
The makeshift camp of some 3,000 Sudanese refugees and migrants had been the site of a three-month protest regarding a variety of grievances with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, living conditions in Egypt, and lack of lasting solutions to their plight. In the early hours of December 30, approximately 4,000 Egyptian police surrounded the camp and, after warning the demonstrators by loudspeaker to leave, fired water cannons into the crowd and then entered in force, beating protesters indiscriminately.
Human Rights Watch later that day called for an independent investigation to determine responsibility for ordering and carrying out the police attack.
President Mubarak subsequently said that the attorney general would look into the incident, but government officials have consistently blamed the demonstrators for provoking the violence and directly or indirectly causing the deaths and injuries. In its letter to President Mubarak, Human Rights Watch said that an independent commission was needed in order to probe responsibility of high government officials, including Interior Minister Habib al-`Adli, for ordering and directing the attack.
“Previous government inquiries into police violence against Egyptian protestors have consistently exonerated Interior Ministry officials,” Frelick said. “In this case the precipitous return of hundreds of victims and witnesses would make any investigation into the violence of December 30 an empty gesture.”
To read Human Rights Watch’s letter to President Mubarak, please visit: