Amnesty International called for a “thorough and impartial” investigation into the actions of security officials responsible for crowd control at a Cairo football match, in a public statement issued on Friday.
The match, which occurred between Zamalek and ENPPI football teams earlier in February at the Air Defence Stadium in Cairo descended into chaos and left scores dead.
The international rights watchdog has laid indisputable blame on Ministry of Interior troops who were policing the entrance to the Stadium. Amnesty International has collected evidence which they say demonstrates the use of “excessive force with reckless disregard for the consequences with fatal results”.
At least 22 people died preceding the match between Zamalek SC and ENPPI, as fans were made to enter the stadium through a narrow and confined metal cage. The Ministry of Interior has maintained that security forces had to disperse the crowds when thousands of Zamalek fans attempted to storm the entrance.
The Forensic Medical Authority has accepted that some deaths by asphyxiation were in part due to the use of tear gas. However, Hisham Abdel Hamid, a medical official at the authority, told state-media on Thursday that “all deaths that took place in the Air Defence Stadium case were due to excessive shoving between fans”. He also denied reports that live ammunition, tear gas or police beatings played any role.
After the event, eyewitnesses reported the crowds were already attempting to retreat. The chaos and trampling is understood, however, to have been sparked following the shooting of approximately eight tear gas canisters into the confined area, which “landed on people’s heads”. One testimony to Amnesty International said: “I tried to run but there was nowhere to run. The security forces were in front of me on one side, and on the other side there was a mountain of dead bodies piled over each other.”
One father told Amnesty International: “My son went to watch the game and came back as a dead body, I voted for Al-Sisi and yesterday he killed my son”
Hardcore Zamalek fan-group Ultras White Knights, who counted their members among the dead, called the event a “deliberate massacre”.
The Amnesty International analysis places blame on poorly trained security forces who used their ammunition liberally, calling the deaths the latest in a long series of security forces using excessive force against demonstrators and crowds.
“[The deaths are a]nother sign of the Central Security Forces’ (riot control police) lack of training in the effective application of methods and rules for dealing with matters of public order in compliance with international law enforcement standards,” the watchdog said.
The Central Security Forces are mainly staffed by national service conscripts who mainly receive basic 40-day training before starting public duty.
Amnesty International also reported that subsequently at the morgue, lawyers were denied access and families were denied from seeing their relatives until after the bodies were washed and covered. This meant that lawyers and families were unable to confirm whether their relatives died from shotgun pellets. The initial forensic report only stated that asphyxiation due to crowding and tear gas as the causes of death.
Despite announcing the release of 18 fans on Tuesday, East Cairo’s prosecution office said three more are detained on charges of inciting violence and assaulting security forces, among other charges.
In a Saturday statement on the Ultras White Knights’ Facebook page, the movement announced that security raids are still ongoing on the apartments of fans accused of responsibility for the events.
Amnesty International added its concern that, as the Air Defence Stadium is a military building, defendants who are put to court will face a private, military trial. As some of those arrested also included minors, Amnesty International continued to criticise the detention of children, especially in the same premises as adults.
“There must be an effective review whenever injury or death is caused by the use of force by law enforcement officials, with independent administrative or prosecutorial authorities in a position to exercise jurisdiction as appropriate, and with the individuals affected, including families of those who have died, having access to that independent process,” the statement said.
The report finishes by observing a continued lack of accountability on security forces for deaths at their hands, with 1,400 having been killed due to excessive force since the 2013 regime change. It continues: “The Egyptian government has, as of yet, failed to hold any security officers accountable for these killings. A fact-finding committee established by former interim president Adly Mansour to investigate the killings also failed to hold any security officer accountable for these killings….[and] comes only two weeks after the killing of Shaimaa Al-Sabbagh who was killed by the security forces during a peaceful march.”