CAIRO: The National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) issued its final report on the security forces’ dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in, during a press conference on March 17.
On March 5, the governmental organization NCHR released an initial summary of the report, which was received with wide public criticism and accusations of being biased towards the police and Central Security Forces.
“We understand that the issue is critical, and we are aware that it will remain controversial for a very long time, due to the grave consequences: the important number of human losses since the dispersal and the following days, as well as the significant protests that followed and the series of assassinations of security forces,” stated Mohamed Fayek, head of the NCHR.
The NCHR maintained the number previously published regarding the death toll at Rabaa, aligning with the June 30 Fact-finding Committee: 632 deaths, 1,492 injuries, and at least 800 arrests, according to the Interior Ministry’s records.
Nasser Amin, a member of the council, explained that the report documented a specific time period: Aug. 14 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. As for the geographic context, it was only the Rabaa Square and the surrounding areas within security forces’ cordon.
The NCHR’s report focused on several points prior to and during the security crackdown on protesters and screened several video excerpts that had previously been broadcasted by several channels, both pro-government and pro-Muslim Brotherhood.
It condemned the protesters’ taking of civilians hostage inside their camps, using children to achieve their political demands, and carrying weapons. As for the violations during the raid, it said protesters used arms against police forces and used civilians as human shields.
On the other hand, the report stated that police forces did not provide protesters enough time to clear the square: “The warning barely lasted 25 minutes, and what further complicated the process is that security forces had already taken the decision to break up the sit-in by taking the front line and facing protesters.”
According to the report, shootings first began from the protesters’ side at police forces. As clashes erupted between the two, security forces failed to secure an escape path for protesters who wanted to leave peacefully.
The videos screened left many reporters’ questions unanswered. One video showed snipers shooting from the rooftop of a building, but neither the report nor the press conference identified the shooters in the video for reporters.
Another video for instance showed an armed man running between protesters but does not actually show him shooting any officers. Many reporters at the conference questioned the value of the report, some saying they did not “see any additional or documented facts” compared with previous reports, especially given that the report is about human lives and national security.
The NCHR also listed its main sources on which the report was based. Official sources were the Forensic Medicine Authority and the Ministry of Interior. Unofficial sources were testimonies collected from witnesses and human organization groups, as well as field research at Rabaa Square.
Reporters asked about the Armed Forces’ involvement in the dispersal, yet NCHR simply referred them to the report. The videos at the conference showed army tanks were present at the scene, but the council did not discuss the actions or role of the army. One reporter said, “The military remains concealed from the operation of dispersing Rabaa sit-in. Why is the council not showing the violations performed by the Armed Forces?” he asked.
Amin’s answered, “Most of your questions are answered in our report which was handed out to journalists today. We have clearly said that the report focused on the most severe violations and those that led to killings.”
Council members did not present the report as the full story but rather said they have only been able to report according to the information they have received, adding that numerous Brotherhood-affiliated groups refused to cooperate with the NCHR.