Major General Abdel Moneim Kato has been making a lot of inflammatory statements lately, suggesting last week that protesters outside of the Cabinet should be "thrown into Hitler’s ovens.” And this from a man who serves as advisor to the Egyptian military’s Morale Affairs Department. No wonder the SCAF’s recent moves have been so ethically suspect. 

On December 22, Kato again provoked a media firestorm by invoking international law to justify using violence against protesters, although he insisted that the military never fired live bullets at protesters outside of the Cabinet building and in Tahrir Square. Meanwhile, Egypt’s chief forensic physician reported that 9 of the 13 people killed in the latest clashes died of gunshot wounds. 

According to Kato’s reading of the Geneva Conventions and unspecified international treaties, Egyptian military forces under attack are entitled to respond with live fire. However, Kato said that soldiers never resorted to this option and instead used rocks — the least possible force — to prevent protesters from damaging public property. 

Not surprisingly, the legal justification for Kato’s claim appears to be paper-thin. Legal analysts dispute Kato’s interpretation of the convention, saying it applies to military forces fighting on battlefields — not civilian protesters in city streets.

Although Article 51 of the United Nations Charter protects "the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations," the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has since issued opinions drastically narrowing the scope of this clause. According to the ICJ’s interpretation of Article 51 in a 2004 Advisory Opinion, armed forces can only invoke the right to self-defesce "in the case of armed attack by one State against another State." 

Unless Kato wants to argue that civilian protesters are the equivalent of territorial states now, he should probably stop talking about international law and instead devote his twisted rhetorical genius to explaining how 9 protesters in a morgue with gunshot wounds weren’t killed by the military’s bullets.

Mara Revkin is the assistant director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and editor ofEgyptSource. She can be reached at [email protected].

Image Credit: Cartoon by Carlos Latuff