Human Rights Watch calls Rabaa dispersal ‘crime against humanity’
Rabaa al-Adaweya sit in - YOUM7 (Archive)

CAIRO: NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) Tuesday released a scathing final report regarding Egypt’s August 2013 dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya protest, in which it called the government’s actions in dispersing a pro-Mohamed Morsi sit-in “a crime against humanity.”

The report was issued a day after an HRW delegation was denied entry into Egypt for “security reasons” after it came to present the report to journalists and diplomats. The government, in State Information Service (SIS) statements called the HRW report “biased” and “unprofessional.”

Responding to their delegation’s inability to enter the country, HRW said on their Facebook page, “Sisi government has done what Morsi and Mubarak never did.”

“Instead of denying the messenger entry to Egypt, the Egyptian authorities should seriously consider our conclusions and recommendations and respond with constructive action,” said HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth in a statement.

The 188-page report, titled “All According to Plan: The Rabaa Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” took a year to prepare and investigate according to HRW, and the organization said at least 1,150 demonstrators were killed by Egyptian security forces in 2013 between July and August. At the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in alone, it said at least 817 people, and potentially more than a 1,000 “overwhelmingly peaceful” protestors were killed by government forces.

The report, according to HRW, is the result of over 200 testimonials, including from journalists and protestors. It added government claims that the sit-in risked the lives of local residents didn’t necessitate the killing of at least 817 protestors. “Lethal force should be used only when strictly unavoidable to protect an imminent threat to life—a standard that was far from met in this case,” according to the report.

Weapons used by Rabaa protestors

HRW’s report said that there was evidence that some protestors had weapons inside the sit-in, which is consistent with government accounts. However, the report also said that the weapons were not enough to justify the government’s actions.

The report also said the government’s violent dispersals of demonstrations supporting former President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood were deliberate and planned on the government’s part, not the hasty actions of field commanders. The report criticized the fact that no officers who participated in the dispersal have been investigated or questioned for the killings.

The HRW report said government forces entered the Rabaa sit-in using snipers, bulldozers and ground troops, and intentionally targeted wounded demonstrators attempting to reach the sit-in’s field hospital inside the Rabaa Al-Adaweya mosque. This was in addition to targeting people fleeing from the government offensive at the sit-in and preventing people from making a safe exit for more than 12 hours, the report said.

HRW also said the Interior Ministry didn’t want to admit any wrongdoing regarding its actions during the dispersal, despite even government death tolls recording up to 632 protestor being killed during the dispersal. The report recommended investigations of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, then-Defense Minister and current President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and the special forces commander of the Rabaa operation Medhat Menshawy.

Egypt’s response

The Interior Ministry has shot back however, and said a safe exit was available for protestors before security forces moved into the square. The government also maintains that it was protestors who fired the first shot of the now infamous confrontation. The government’s National Council for Human Rights issued a report Monday claiming a police officer announcing on a megaphone that the protest camp was to be dispersed was shot and killed by protestors, which required government action.

In a statement released by the SIS, the Egyptian government responded immediately to the report, rejecting it as “negative, biased and ignorant of the terrorist attacks by the Muslim Brotherhoods during 2013 inside Egypt.”

Issued just minutes after the HRW report, it said the Egyptian government “refuses the report and criticizes the lack of neutrality in it.”

“All of its testimonials were basically anonymous witnesses, and unreliable, non-neutral sources,” the statement added.

It also said HRW has no right to work inside Egypt, as its office has been closed. “Any of the organization’s movements or actions inside the State, including gathering evidence and testimonials are illegal violations of international law, it said.”

The Ministry of Interior previously said in a statement Saturday it would commemorate Aug. 14 not as a massacre, but “a commemoration of the death of 114 government security troops killed in a confrontation with terrorists.”

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