Egyptian authorities should immediately investigate, with a view to prosecution, allegations that Egyptian border guards killed three Sudanese nationals trying to cross the Egypt-Israeli border, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Egyptian Minister of Interior. Israeli border guards report witnessing Egyptian border guards beating and shooting the migrants.
“The reported brutality of these killings is all the more shocking as it comes at a time when Egypt and Israel are discussing the issue of asylum seekers crossing into Israel,” said Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch.
In the June Sharm el-Sheik summit, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reportedly spoke with President Hosni Mubarak about the issue of the increasing flow of Sudanese migrants crossing the border into Israel. Although they reached no formal agreement, according to a June 28 Ynet.com report (“Olmert, Mubarak Agree to Send Infiltrators Back to Egypt”), President Mubarak verbally agreed to accept the return of third-country nationals from Israel. Since then, the two governments reportedly have been working out the details of an informal agreement.
Israel’s Channel 10 TV screened an army surveillance video showing the three migrants running toward the Israeli border. The TV report included an interview with an anonymous Israeli soldier who witnessed the incident. Ha’aretz reported that the soldier said that he saw Egyptian border guards open fire, killing one and wounding a second. The guards then beat the wounded man and a third migrant, the soldier said: “We saw them gang up on them and beat them on the ground until they stopped moving… They killed two men with their own hands and with sticks and rocks. We heard them crying and screeching in pain until they died.” Egypt has not acknowledged that anyone was killed, according to an August 5 Associated Press report.
Egypt is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits arbitrary killings, including those resulting from unlawful or excessive use of force, and obligates states to investigate any such alleged killings. It is also a party to the UN Convention Against Torture, which prohibits resort to force amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment or torture, and requires states to investigate and prosecute any alleged incidents.
The Human Rights Watch letter calls upon the Egyptian government to order a full investigation of the reported shootings and beatings, and to hold accountable, including where appropriate through prosecution, any Egyptian officials responsible for the injury or death of any migrants; to invite independent international investigators from the UN to examine this and any other reported incidents involving allegations of excessive force against migrants; and to provide public assurances that it will treat humanely third-country nationals apprehended at the border and not return them to any country where they might be tortured or persecuted.