In an Investigation by the EIPR: Bullets of the Ministry of Interior Were Aimed to Leave Demonstrators Permanently Disabled

Press Release

26 November 2011

60 Eye Injuries in Kasr el-Aini Hospital Alone... High Rates of Injury to the Face and Upper Body... The Wounded Confirm That Their Eyes Were Directly Targeted

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights' (EIPR) preliminary investigations into the attacks on demonstrators in Tahrir confirmed that security forces deliberately fired birdshot pellets and rubber bullets in the direction of demonstrators' bodies. This use of force was intended to injure demonstrators rather than to disperse them, which led to several of them losing the use of their eyes.

The EIPR underlined the need to charge elements of the Interior Ministry with assault causing permanent disability, in the ongoing public prosecutor's investigations into attacks on demonstrators in Mohamed Mahmoud Street and Tahrir Square. By law, this charge carries a sentence of ten years rigorous imprisonment if the assault was premeditated.

"The high rate of eye injuries leaves no doubt as to a pattern of intentionally aiming birdshot pellets and rubber bullets at the eyes of demonstrators", said Magda Boutros, Criminal Justice Reform Director at EIPR.  "We will not let this atrocious crime go unpunished."

Kasr el-Aini hospital alone received 60 cases of eye injuries between the 19th November and the morning of the 27th November. According to the records of those injured and held in Kasr el-Aini hospital, eye injuries varied between burst corneas, burst eye sockets and foreign bodies in different parts of the eye.

A volunteer eye doctor in the field hospital nearest to Mohamed Mahmoud Street reported that  between the morning and afternoon of the 21st November, he treated almost 25 people, of which 4 had sustained injuries in the eye area from birdshot pellets. The doctor stated to EIPR researchers that the majority of injuries were to the upper half of the body and especially to the face, and that injuries were from both birdshot pellets and rubber bullets.

Many witnesses from amongst the injured in Tahrir square confirmed the same pattern. Hady Q, one of the injured demonstrators, said that Central Security Forces (CSF) aimed their guns at a straight horizontal angle towards the bodies of demonstrators. Hady was injured during the clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street on the 19th November by shrapnel above his right eye and fell to the ground; when he got back up he was wounded again by two pieces of shrapnel in his left and right legs.

Rights activist and blogger Malek Mostafa also described how he was wounded in his right eye by birdshot pellets on the 19th November: "I was standing on the junction of the square with Mohamed Mahmoud Street, and CSF soldiers and officers were standing far down Mohamed Mahmoud firing tear gas, birdshot pellets and rubber bullets. There were two vehicles with two people on top of them, shooting. I was helping an old man sleeping on the ground to try and stand up, when a shot hit my eye."

The EIPR got hold of Malek Mostafa's medical report, which stated that the injury was caused by a medium-sized blunt solid body (a plastic or rubber bullet). This led to a complete draining of the visceral body and the chloroid, and laceration of different parts of the eye. The doctor's opinion was that the patient had lost the ability to see light, which could lead to a loss of use of the eye.

One demonstrator confirmed that this deliberate targeting of the eyes was acknowledged by the officers themselves. Eyewitness Ramy el-Khouli reported that a CSF officer, whilst chasing demonstrators towards the Omar Makram mosque on the 19th November, verbally threatened demonstrators with targeting of the eyes, saying: 'If you want to lose your eye, come over here'.

A large number of video recordings made by demonstrators and eyewitnesses proved that the targeting of the eyes was intentional. Perhaps the most notorious clip is one circulating on the internet which clearly shows an officer firing on demonstrators in Mohamed Mahmoud Street. A soldier then congratulates him on hitting a demonstrator's eye, saying: 'Nice one, you hit the guy's eye.'

EIPR added that the pattern of deliberately targeting the eyes and face of demonstrators is similar to the approach taken by security forces during the January revolution, which also resulted in serious injuries to the face and eyes.

Adel Ramadan, EIPR's legal officer, said: "The Ministry of Interior has now proved to us, nine months after the fall of the former president, that its brutality in confronting demonstrators has not changed. Rather, it has increased to the point that the Ministry will now intentionally burst demonstrators' eyes."

The EIPR confirmed that its investigations into this crime will continue until they arrive at a complete list of the names of security personnel who were present during the attacks and who were involved in firing all kinds of ammunition on demonstrators, in preparation for bringing them to justice on charges of killing almost 40 demonstrators and injuring more than 3000 others. The EIPR also underlined that accountability must extend to the leaders of the Ministry of Interior responsible for giving the orders to kill and injure – most notably General Sami Sidhom, Minister's Assistant for the Security Sector, and General Emad el-Din el-Wakil, Minister's Assistant for Central Security Forces.

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