US sent arms to Egypt during crackdown: Amnesty
Washington: The United States continued to send crowd control weapons to Egypt, even as security forces pressed their violent crackdown on protesters there, Amnesty International said.
The rights group yesterday said one recent shipment arriving in Egypt last month carried at least seven tonnes of chemical irritants and riot management agents such as tear gas, and was destined for the country's Interior Ministry.
All such US weapons shipments be halted "until there is certainty that tear gas and other munitions, weaponry or other equipment aren't linked to bloodshed on Egyptian streets," said Amnesty International's Brian Wood.
The rights group was strongly critical of the US government's decision to permit the shipments, noting in its statement that the Egyptian government responded to protests by using excessive and often lethal force.
"It is inconceivable that the US authorities did not know of evidence of widely documented abuses by the Egyptian security forces," Amnesty said, urging an international treaty to cover munitions used by law enforcement agencies.
"Even in situations where protesters clash with riot police, it is no license to use excessive force and tear gas recklessly," Wood said.
Last month's shipment by US company Combined Systems, Inc was one of at least three arms deliveries to Egypt since protests against the government of then president Hosni Mubarak erupted in late January.
Mubarak resigned and has been replaced by military rulers who have vowed to hand over power after presidential elections by the end of June next year.
But they have suspended the constitution, meaning the powers of a caretaker cabinet and a new Parliament currently being elected, are unclear.
Combined Systems, based in Jamestown, Pennsylvania manufactures munitions for military forces and law enforcement agencies, including rubber bullets and riot control irritants such as tear gas.
The US State Department, when asked about the Amnesty report, said American companies had shipped tear gas to Egypt under a previous license that has since expired.
"We've condemned the use of excessive force against protesters during the recent period of civil unrest in Cairo," spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
"We do take allegations of misuse of tear gas very seriously," he said, noting that officials had investigated whether it had been misused.