Amnesty criticises Egypt's military rulers

Egypt's military rulers have failed to live up to their promises and have even committed worse rights abuses than the regime of ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The London-based watchdog made the criticism in a report that comes after Egyptian police and troops killed at least 24 people in three days at protests against military rule in Cairo's Tahrir Square and across the country.

The report was prepared before the news late on Monday that the government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had submitted its resignation to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Amnesty described as "woeful" the catalogue of human rights abuses by the SCAF, which took over from Mubarak following his overthrow in February.

"By using military courts to try thousands of civilians, cracking down on peaceful protest and expanding the remit of Mubarak's emergency law, the SCAF has continued the tradition of repressive rule which the January 25 demonstrators fought so hard to get rid of," said Amnesty's Philip Luther.

"Those who have challenged or criticised the military council - like demonstrators, journalists, bloggers, striking workers - have been ruthlessly suppressed, in an attempt at silencing their voices," he said in a statement.

"The human rights balance sheet for SCAF shows that after nine months in charge of Egypt, the aims and aspirations of the January 25 revolution have been crushed."

Hailed during the popular uprising for not siding with Mubarak, the military now faces growing discontent over its trials of civilians and suspicion that it is delaying a transition to civilian rule.

And Amnesty said the judiciary was among the main areas in which the military council had "worsened the situation."

The watchdog said around 12,000 civilians had faced military courts in just nine months under the new rulers on charges including "thuggery" and "insulting the army."

It singled out the case of blogger Maikel Nabil Sanad, who was last month confined to a psychiatric clinic for 45 days after he began a hunger strike over his three-year sentence.

"After going on hunger strike in August, prison authorities have denied him the medication he needs to treat a heart condition," said Amnesty, adding there have been clear attempts to suppress negative media reports about the SCAF.

Despite promising to protect demonstrators, the security forces, including the army, had "violently suppressed several protests, resulting in deaths and injuries."

Among them were 28 people killed when security forces dispersed a Coptic Christian protest on October 9, said the watchdog, citing medics as saying the casualties included people with bullet wounds and body parts crushed by speeding armoured vehicles.

"Instead of ordering an independent investigation, the army announced that it would carry out the investigation itself and moved quickly to suppress criticism," said the report.

The military was also accused of using promises of investigations to deflect criticism of serious rights violations, including that of continuing torture in detention.

Amnesty called on the Egyptian authorities to investigate human rights violations properly and transparently, and to lift the emergency law, which has been expanded to cover even more offences under the military.

- AFP

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