The Port Said massacre: the state secures safe environment for the murder of innocents / Joint statement
CAIRO, Egypt, February 6, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The undersigned organizations express their uttermost regret and deep dismay at the bloody events that took place after the football match between al-Ahli Club and al-Masri Club in the Port Said stadium, which left at least 77 people dead and more than 300 injured. The undersigned hold the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), the government, and the Interior Ministry fully responsible for this heinous crime and call for an independent investigative committee headed by the president of the Supreme Judicial Council, vested with the authority to investigate military leaders and government and Interior Ministry officials. We further call for a complete restructure of the Interior Ministry under the oversight of parliamentarians, judges, and human rights defenders.
These events took place in full view of the police forces tasked with securing the match, which was preceded by several warnings issued by many sports observers who advised canceling the match or holding it without the presence of fans due to the mutual threats and recriminations seen on various social media sites, which portended a tragedy. Yet the security forces, instead of doing their duty to provide the necessary protection to the crowds, stood and watched as the events unfolded. As was seen on video footage circulated online, at times they even cleared the way for al-Masri fans to storm the pitch and facilitated some attacks on al-Ahli players and fans.
In addition, some eyewitness testimonies collected by the undersigned organizations stated that security forces, for the first time in the history of football in the Port Said stadium, did not search match attendees, thus permitting the entry of clubs and knives that were used in the massacre. Video footage also documents how security forces opened a space allowing those bearing weapons to attack al-Ahli fans. At the same time, security forces closed emergency exits in al-Ahli bleachers and shut off the lights in the stadium as soon as the match ended, which suggests that police forces intentionally refrained from carrying out one of their most important tasks: protecting lives and public and private property. By providing a safe environment for those who perpetrated the massacre, enabling them to escape, and creating circumstances that facilitated the crime, police forces may be an accomplice to the crime.
The circumstances strongly suggest intentional dereliction of duty on the part of security forces, and may mean that a decision was made to punish young people -namely, Ultras Ahlawy fans- for playing an active role during the revolution and their persistent condemnation of the repressive practices of police and military forces.
The undersigned organizations condemn the total lack of security in Port Said following the stadium massacre, as police and army forces withdrew, in contrast to expected actions in a city that has just witnessed a heinous crime in an extremely fraught, tense social climate. This security vacuum provides an environment conducive to further crimes and indicates a lack of political will to contain circumstances that may lead to additional victims.
The right to life is not merely a negative right requiring authorities to refrain from killing innocent citizens, but entails a positive responsibility on the part of the state to protect this right from infringement. The death of more than 77 football fans in Port Said, like the death of more than 96 people in Imbaba in sectarian violence last year, is proof of a clear failure to protect this right. Under international conventions signed by Egypt, the failure to provide full security and prevent violations to the right to life is, in and of itself, a crime on a par with murder itself.
Yesterday and today, the Port Said Prosecution questioned 52 suspects, among them 26 minors, and ordered the apprehension of 12 others in connection with the events. This is the usual step taken by the authorities after all such events: several of those present on the scene are arbitrarily arrested, while those truly responsible for the crime—those who facilitated it and created the appropriate environment for it—face no repercussions for their direct responsibility for the deaths of dozens of citizens.
The number of people killed over the past year is not only due to the mismanagement of the transitional period. The succession of events shows clearly that the SCAF and its successive governments have been complicit in all violations of human rights over this period. These abuses will continue as long as impunity continues and the perpetrators and those responsible for these crimes are not held to account.
The recent period has seen a growing number of thefts and killings, the latest being the events in Port Said. This leads us to believe that there is a willful attempt to create a security vacuum in order to impose further repressive laws and practices, first and foremost the perpetuation of the state of emergency. This also allows the police to continue operating by the same rules in force prior to the January 25 revolution, subjecting the citizenry to systematic torture, arbitrary detention, and other practices rejected by the people—indeed, practices they rebelled against with the revolution.
We can only stress that the preservation of security in the country is the direct responsibility of the government, Interior Ministry, and the SCAF, which assumed control of the country on February 11, 2011 and enjoys all the prerogatives of the executive power. We also stress that security must be maintained without violating the international human rights conventions ratified by Egypt. Any party that fails to fulfill its responsibility to protect lives and preserve security must be held accountable, including those responsible for the administration of these bodies. If their collusion in this crime is proven, they should be considered accomplices and prosecuted as such.
The undersigned organizations are also gravely concerned about the statements and comments made by some sports commentators inciting to hatred of a particular group of citizens—namely, residents of the Port Said governorate—following this abominable incident. This may encourage those harmed to take extra-legal retaliatory action. We also strongly condemn statements made by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi only hours after the incident, which contained similar incitement to that heard in the sports media, but is much more serious as it comes from the head of the governing authority. Tantawi stated, “There is a group of people who committed these crimes, and everyone knows them. I don't know why the people are silent about this.” As this indicates, the SCAF's failure is not limited to the mismanagement of the transitional period, the refusal to implement the goals of the revolution, and the commission of human rights crimes. In addition, it is unable to formulate a responsible, disciplined political discourse during a catastrophe that may lead the country to further bloodshed, and even inflames the tension among citizens and exacerbates social violence.
As such, we wish to note that those responsible for these events are the SCAF, the government, and the Interior Ministry, by dint of their failure to secure the match and take measures necessary to prevent the crime. The executive authority regularly uses overwhelming force in the face of peaceful demonstrators while it fails to protect lives or limit the escalation of violence.
The undersigned organizations condemn the Interior Ministry's excessive use of tear gas and rubber bullets to confront demonstrators and peaceful assemblies that began yesterday near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, in Suez, and in numerous squares around Egypt following the events in Port Said. This has left 12 demonstrators dead and hundreds injured as of Saturday, February 4. We reaffirm that the right to peacefully demonstrate is a guaranteed right that cannot be infringed, even if such protests take place near vital facilities, including the Interior Ministry. Police forces must secure and protect these demonstrations and protests, not face them down with violence and repression, to avoid adding new victims to the casualty list.
The undersigned organizations strongly condemn these events and submit a set of demands to stop similar violence:
• We demand the People's Assembly form an independent investigating committee chaired by the president of the Supreme Judicial Council to investigate these events. The scope of the investigation should include military leaders who were present in the environs of the Port Said stadium.
• Comprehensive institutional reform and restructuring of the Interior Ministry and a radical change in the philosophy of police work, implemented through a national commission including security experts, legal experts, judges, and civil society groups. These events and others have proven that all Interior Ministry statements regarding reforms and new codes of ethics are simply words that have no connection to reality. Indeed, the current reality contains no indication that the Egyptian people even engaged in a revolution.
• A strict application of the law to eliminate incitement to hatred, without infringing on freedom of expression or opinion, and a cessation of calls pitting citizens against one another and blaming unnamed segments of the people. It should be noted that incitement to hatred is a crime punishable under Egyptian and international law.
• An end to all human rights violations and a review of all crimes committed during the transitional period with the goal of investigating them and holding those responsible accountable. This can only take place by accelerating the turnover of power to popularly elected bodies.
• Andalus Center for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies
• Appropriate Communications Techniques for Development (ACT)
• Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
• Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression
• Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
• Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance
• Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
• Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights
• Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions
• Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination
• Hisham Mubarak Law Center
• Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence
• Nazra for Feminist Studies
• New Woman Research Center