12 Aug 2014

Egypt’s Tiananmen-style attack premeditated – HRW

The killing of 817 demonstrators last year was systematic, planned and ordered by officials, says Human Rights Watch, which wants the UN to investigate what are “probably” crimes against humanity.

The leading human rights group spent a year researching footage and interviewing 122 witnesses to six incidents in July and August last year, including the Rabaa Mosque massacre.

At least 817 supporters of the ousted President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party, were killed, but hundreds more are likely to have died in the attacks, said Human Rights Watch (HRW), which compared the attack to the 1989 massacre of protesters around China’s Tiananmen Square. The group said that the security forces’s killing of protesters was ordered by top officials, including Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who is Egypt’s current president, and was defence minister at the time.

The nearly 200-page report concludes: “Given the widespread and systematic nature of these killings, and the evidence suggesting that they were part of a
policy to use lethal force against largely unarmed protesters on political grounds, these killings most likely amount to crimes against humanity.”

It called on the UN Human Rights Council to investigate “the mass killings of demonstrators since June 30, 2013”.

Graphic below, from Human Rights Watch, details what it calls the ‘stages of a massacre’ at Rabba square.

Egypt violence: bloody, immoral and very murky:
“By using deadly force against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian security forces are not only acting immorally but storing up trouble: chances are, some survivors will now turn to terrorism, seeing no future in democracy nor whatever system emerges from the violence.” – read International Editor Lindsey Hilsum’s blog from 16 August last year.

Two members of HRW staff were deported while trying to enter Egypt on Sunday to present the report ahead of the anniversary of the Rabba massacre on Thursday.

In its official response to the report, Egypt’s government told newswired that it was “characterised by negativity and bias” and relied on anonymous witnesses rather than neutral sources.

Egyptian officials, who have deemed the ousted Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group, have repeatedly said that some protesters were armed and fired at police and soldiers, some of whom have died.

HRW acknowledged that protesters threw rocks and petrol bombs at security forces and a few opened fire. But it said their actions failed to justify the level of force deployed by the state.