Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Egypt's Minister of Interior, General Habib al-`Adli, on to express profound concern at reports this week that Egyptian border guards have once again shot and killed a migrant attempting to cross the border into Israel.

We are writing to you, again, to express our profound concern at reports this week that Egyptian border guards have once again shot and killed a migrant attempting to cross the border into Israel. To shoot and kill migrants attempting to leave your country is an excessive and illegal use of force and out of all proportion to any legitimate interest in maintaining orderly border controls.

The latest incident reportedly occurred on November 10. The victim was Henna Mohammed Mohammed, a national of Eritrea, a country that produces many asylum seekers with legitimate claims to refugee status.

We have previously written to you to protest border shootings and beatings resulting in death that occurred on July 22, involving the death of Haja Abbas Haroun, a 28-year-old woman from Darfur, and the killing of three migrants of unknown nationality on the night of August 1.

The use of force by state security forces is governed by international standards, and subject to international legal obligations which are binding on Egypt. Egypt is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which prohibits in Article 6 (1) arbitrary killings including those resulting from unlawful or excessive use of force. This prohibition imposes an obligation on states to investigate, and where appropriate prosecute, any such alleged killings. Article 7 of the ICCPR also prohibits the use of torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment, and similarly creates obligations to investigate and prosecute. Egypt also has specific and binding obligations as 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.

We also respectfully remind you that the right of any person to leave any country is regarded as a fundamental human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also incorporated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We urge you immediately to take the following actions: 1) order a full investigation of the reported shootings and beatings of non-Egyptian migrants attempting to cross from Egypt into Israel, including the incidents of July 22, August 1, and November 10; 2) invite independent international investigators, namely the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to examine this and any other reported incidents involving allegations of excessive force against migrants; and 3) provide public assurances that you will treat humanely third-country nationals apprehended at the border and will not return them to any country where their lives would be threatened, or they would face risk of torture or persecution.

We further call on you to prosecute anyone identified as having unlawfully killed or injured any migrants through shooting or beating, and to hold accountable any other Egyptian official bearing responsibility for such incidents. You should make the results of your investigation and the actions you have taken, public as soon as possible.

In its investigations Egypt should have regard to the standards set out by the UN governing the use of force. The U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that “law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.” The U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms provide that law enforcement officials “shall, as far as possible, apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force” and may use force “only if other means remain ineffective.” When the use of force is unavoidable, law enforcement officials must “exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence.”

We would greatly appreciate your prompt attention and response to these very serious allegations.

Sincerely,

Bill Frelick
Refugee Policy Director

Sarah Leah Whitson
Middle East and North Africa Director