IRRI Condemns Horrific Attack on Refugee Demonstrators in Cairo

Published: 2 Jan 2006

Contact: Deirdre Clancy + 353 86 408 3797

IRRI Condemns Horrific Attack on Refugee Demonstrators in Cairo

(New York and Kampala, January 2, 2006) The International Refugee Rights Initiative (IRRI) today called on the Egyptian government to launch an immediate independent inquiry into the events of Friday, December 30 in Cairo in which over 50 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers were killed, in the context of an action by Egyptian riot police.

“This appears to be an organized, premeditated violent attack by state forces on a group of refugees and asylum seekers carried out with utter disregard for human life,” said Deirdre Clancy, Co-Director of IRRI.

In the early hours of Friday morning, a team of close to 5,000 riot police acted to forcibly disperse approximately 3,000 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers who had been involved in a contentious protest outside the offices of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in central Cairo for more than three months. The Sudanese took up residence in a plaza near the UNHCR office seeking at the end of September better treatment from both the Egyptian authorities and UNHCR.

After months of attempts to negotiate a peaceful end to the protest had met with failure, the protest was brought to a bloody end on December 30. At 5AM riot police used water cannon and sticks to attack and remove and detain the protestors. In the ensuing struggle over fifty people, the majority of whom were children, were killed and hundreds more were injured. Those who survived the onslaught were forced on to buses and taken into detention in police stations and military camps on the outskirts of the city.

IRRI has received information indicating that over 3,000 Sudanese refugees are still detained. There are reports that not all who need medical treatment have received it and that UNHCR officials have not been permitted access to the detainees. Access by local lawyers to those held in police detention has been prevented and local hospitals have refused to provide information about the number of injured in treatment. Local advocates who were able to access the morgue report that the majority of those dead are children.

IRRI supports the call by non-governmental organizations in Egypt for an independent inquiry to investigate the events and to hold accountable those responsible for this atrocity. In addition we urge that:

  • The bodies of those killed be released to their families;
  • Accurate information be provided about the whereabouts of those detained and injured;
  • Medical attention be provided to the wounded;
  • The detention of all those detained collectively be immediately reviewed on an individual basis, in line with Egypt’ domestic and international legal obligations; and that
  • UNHCR and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies be permitted immediate access to those detained.
Programmes: Rights in Exile
Regions: Other
Type: Press Release