Saturday, December 11, 2010

Egypt: Condemnation of Attack by Egypt's Security Forces Against Coptic community

Coptic Solidarity condemns the brutal attack by the State Security forces on November 24 against the Coptic community in the district of Omrania, Guiza Governorate. This unjustified aggression left at least three dead and dozens wounded, including over 20 who were blinded, either partially or totally. Several persons still remain missing.

It is compulsory in Egypt to obtain a presidential decree in order to construct any new church. A draconian procedure that lasts for years, if not decades, and is controlled by the infamous State Security apparatus. Even minor repair and renovation work require a permit from the local governor. Such procedures naturally do not apply to mosques.

In Omrania, Coptic inhabitants, who number over ten thousand, have made several requests since 2003 to build a church. In early 2010, they obtained a permit to build a "services centre" (which normally includes a clinic open for patients of all faith). The local State Security gave tacit approval to dedicate a hall for prayers, pending a church permit.

As construction work progressed, various administrative departments continued to harass the Copts. Accusing them of "wanting to build a church," the authorities ordered halting all construction work and the demolition of parts of the building. After much arduous efforts and many expenses, the unfair order created deep resentment. Copts decided to express their feelings by organizing a « sit-in » within the buildings to prevent its destruction.

At dawn on November 24, an armed force of over 2000 State Security men launched a ferocious attack (typical of Islamic holy wars, some were heard shouting "Allahu Akbar"). They used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition to empty the building. Outraged, a few hundred later marched towards the governorate offices in protest. The demonstrators, attacked once more by the Security men, had only pebbles to throw back in self defense.

To date, over 158 Copts have been randomly arrested and inhumanely treated. The arrests are also very unfair: In hundreds of attacks against innocent Copts over the years Muslim perpetrators have always enjoyed full impunity. Just two weeks earlier, 20 houses belonging to Copts in Abu-Tesht, Quena Gvt., were set ablaze under the complicit watch of the police. In fact, the arrested Copts were, as usual, taken "hostages" by the authorities as a means to humiliate and blackmail the Coptic community. Coptic Solidarity demands their immediate release.

Officials and officers who gave orders or participated in the brutal attack must be held accountable for their actions and its consequences. If that is not done within Egypt's jurisdiction, their prosecution abroad will be only rightful—keeping in mind that under international law, there is no time limit for prosecuting such crimes.

Coptic Solidarity holds the Egyptian authorities and political leadership fully responsible, and demands that effective measures be taken immediately. We emphasize that President Mubarak, according to his constitutional powers, bears the full burden of such incidents, which is a result of the discriminatory policies expressly applied by the State, in defiance of the International Conventions on basic human rights.

Source: Coptic Solidarity