The Egyptian Public Prosecutor must urgently investigate what appear to be extrajudicial executions by members of the military in North Sinai, said Amnesty International following an analysis of a military propaganda video.
A video released by the spokesperson of the Egyptian armed forces on 1 August as an update on operations against militants, shows a soldier shooting a person at close range while asleep in a makeshift tent. Another clip shows an unarmed man pounded by bullets from above, as he is running in the desert, before falling to the ground.
In the video’s voiceover the narrator celebrates the success of operations by Egyptian armed forces in North Sinai announcing the killing of 89 militants over an unspecified timeframe.
“The deeply disturbing footage in this Egyptian military propaganda video, which celebrates the armed forces’s deliberate cold-blooded killings of two unarmed people clearly not posing a threat to life, offers a glimpse of the shocking crimes committed in the name of countering terrorism in Egypt,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“The Egyptian public prosecution must immediately launch effective, impartial and independent investigations into these apparent extrajudicial executions, with the view to bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials before civilian courts.”
Under international human rights law, the criminal jurisdiction of military courts must be limited solely to trials of members of security forces for breaches of military discipline and must not include cases involving human rights violations or crimes of international law.
The soldier seen in the video shooting at the man in the tent uses an M4 Carbine with a PEQ Aiming Light and an Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, both are American-made. With annual military aid amounting to 1.3 billion USD, Egypt is among the largest recipients of military aid from the USA.
“Given the gravity of violations committed with impunity in Egypt, as evidenced in this shocking video, the USA must ensure that the release of foreign military funding earmarked for Egypt – one of the largest long-term recipients of military aid- is subject to the government taking tangible measures to end human rights violations in the country and hold security officials accountable,” said Philip Luther.
“The harrowing scenes in this video serve as a chilling reminder that the Egyptian authorities hold international law in contempt. They also demonstrate the risks of complicity in these violations by arms exporters. The international community including the USA and EU member states must urgently halt the transfer of arms or military equipment where there is a clear risk that these may be used to commit human rights violations.”
Amnesty international has not been able to independently verify the footage used in the video issued by the armed forces or confirm the date or location of the events shown. The video was released following two militant attacks that left five dead and eight wounded soldiers and one dead and four wounded civilians. Wilayet Sinai (Sinai Province), an armed group operating in North Sinai, subsequently declared responsibility for the first attack.
This is not the first time the military have been accused of extrajudicial executions, none of which were independently investigated.
Egypt has imposed a strict media blackout on the operations in North Sinai and has prevented media, human rights organizations and independent observers from accessing the region.
Journalist Ismail al-Iskandarani, has been detained since November 2015 and sentenced to 10 years in prison by a military court due to his coverage of the situation in North Sinai.
The Egyptian military and security forces have been fighting militants in Northern Sinai since 2011.