CAIRO — Amnesty International on Wednesday criticized the U.S. government for allowing arms shipments to Egypt despite its security forces' record of harsh crackdowns on protesters.
Amnesty said Washington permitted three shipments to Egypt from U.S. weapons producers between April and October. Shipping records show that the shipments included bullets, cartridges and "ammunition smoke," probably meaning tear gas, the London-based group said in a report.
"These licenses were authorized during a period where the Egyptian government responded to protests by using excessive and often lethal force," said Amnesty's Brian Wood. "It is inconceivable that the U.S. authorities did not know of evidence of widely documented abuses by the Egyptian security forces. These licenses should not have been granted."
Egyptian security forces have repeatedly cracked down on protesters since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February in a popular uprising. Some 40 protesters were killed in a week of clashes last month.
Amnesty said the weapons are not illegal, but that Egyptian forces often use them incorrectly.
U.S. officials have acknowledged munitions shipments to Egypt, and have condemned the excessive use of force."We do take allegations of misuse of tear gas very seriously," said State Department spokesman Mark Toner on Wednesday. "Last week, we said that there was an ongoing license that has now since expired, but there was another shipment that was delivered to Egypt, I believe just last week, with tear gas. But beyond that, there are no additional shipments that we're aware of and no additional licenses that we're aware of."