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HRW says Rabaa dispersal was planned, Egypt gov't calls report 'biased'

Report from Human Rights Watch says last August's Rabaa massacre was planned at highest levels of Egyptian government - but authorities say findings are biased

Ahram Online, Tuesday 12 Aug 2014
Rabaa
File Photo: Egyptian security forces inspect the sit-in camp set up by supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in Nasr City (Photo: AP)
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Human Rights Watch has described last year's killings during the dispersal of two Cairo protest camps held by supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi  as planned in advance and likely "a crime against humanity".

In its 188-page investigation, released Tuesday, the New York-based rights group presents evidence of Egyptian security forces using excessive force to disband the sit-in in front of Rabaa Al-Adaweya Mosque in the east Cairo district of Nasr City.

At least 817 were killed during the dispersal that day, 14 August 2013, the report said, while other estimates put the death toll at more than 1,000. Another 800 were arrested at the sit-in.

The report states that the excessive force was planned and that larger death tolls had been expected.

"In Rabaa Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world's largest killing of demonstrators in a single day in recent history," said Kenneth Roth, HRW executive director.

"This wasn't merely a case of excessive force or poor training. It was a violent crackdown planned at the highest levels of the Egyptian government. Many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for."

Despite the high death toll, the report said, not even a single low-level police officer was held accountable – rather, bonuses were given to those who participated in the dispersals.

As a result of its findings, HRW has called for an international investigation and prosecution of those implicated. HRW further called on states to suspend military and law enforcement aid to Egypt until it adopts measures to end its serious rights violations.

HRW said it interviewed more than 200 witnesses – including protesters, doctors, local residents and independent journalists – visited each of the protest sites during or immediately after the attacks began and reviewed physical evidence, hours of video footage and statements by public officials. The group wrote to relevant Egyptian ministries soliciting the government's perspective on these events – but received no responses, it said.

Detailing the execution of the dispersal plan, the report said security forces attacked the Rabaa encampment from each five of its main entrances, using armed personnel carriers (APCs), bulldozers, ground troops and snipers.

In contrast to security forces later saying they had given demonstrators adequate time to leave before the dispersal, the report claimed there was "little to no effective warning … leaving no safe exit for nearly 12 hours" and that there was also firing on makeshift medical facilities.

The government said at the time that the protesters had been armed. However, after fully clearing the sit-in on 14 August, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim announced that his forces had found 15 guns in the square.

"[That] figure, if accurate, indicates that few protesters were armed and further corroborates the extensive evidence Human Rights Watch compiled that police gunned down hundreds of unarmed protesters," the report said.

"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."

The report also presents evidence of violence from protesters, who it says threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police when the dispersal began and, in some cases, fired on police. Forensics records showed that eight police officers died that day, the report noted.

Other violent incidents in July and August are detailed, including those outside the Republican Guard headquarters, outside a mosque in Ramses Square and the dispersal of a smaller sit-in in central Cairo.

"The legacy of the Rabaa massacre continues to cast a dark shadow over Egypt," Roth said. "Egypt will not move forward until it comes to terms with this bloody stain on its history."

Government responds

In response to the HRW report, the Egyptian government issued a statement early Tuesday in which it called the findings biased and negative.

"The Egyptian government is sorry that the Human Rights Watch report deliberately didn't mention that hundreds of civilian, police and army martyrs have been killed up until now by those described in the report as [peaceful protesters]," said the statement from the State Information Service, the government's communications department.

"The report ignored that the first fallen martyr killed by a firearm during the dispersal of the Rabaa sit-in was a police officer."

The SIS statement accused the HRW report of being biased towards the "claims of ... the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood organisation".

It also said the report failed to take into account reports from the National Council for Human Rights – the government appointed rights body – and other NGOs that showed Egyptian authorities had acted in accordance with both Egyptian and international standards during the dispersal.

The government accused HRW of "breaking the law" by conducting its interviews and research in Egypt without legal permits.

On Monday, Roth and HRW Middle East and North Africa Director Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson were barred entry to Egypt at Cairo International Airport.

The two had been scheduled to publicly release the Rabaa report from Cairo on Tuesday in front of journalists and diplomats. However, authorities held them at the airport and then deported them hours later, citing security reasons.

It was the first time Egyptian authorities have prevented HRW employees from entering the country.

The rights group closed its Cairo office in February, citing concerns over Egypt's deteriorating security and political situation.

 

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Zakawer
08-02-2016 09:46pm
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Not only are most people in the comment section biased...
The sit-in dispersal and clashes in Rabaa and Nahda weren't even planned that way HRW claims. Also as the title says, people in the comment section are either pro-Hamas or pro-Israel. I'm neither. Also, to you, Ahram Online, change "Report from Human Rights Watch says last August's Rabaa massacre was planned at highest levels of Egyptian government - but authorities say findings are biased" to "Report from Human Rights Watch states that the August 2013 Rabaa and Nahda sit-in dispersal was "planned at highest levels of Egyptian government" - but authorities say findings are biased"
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9



ayman
14-08-2014 05:27pm
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Laughable report
"little to no effective warning" It was shown on public TV in the early morning, when the police used megaphones to declare the sit in illegal and asked the protestors to disperse. I guess the ones that left weren't of importance to them to interview nor did they care to see the public TV footage as it isn't conducive to their prearranged conclusion. "Lethal force should be used only when strictly unavoidable to protect an imminent threat to life" The first ones to die were the police officers who were shot long range through their helmets according to the forensics report, but that was apparently ignored. That's sniper fire from nearby buildings not "guns". That is an imminent threat to life for the remaining officers, so they had every right to return fire. And the lies go on, yet they selectively say nothing when real massacres happen elsewhere. So it shouldn't be a surprise that this CIA branch was not welcome.
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8



Khan
13-08-2014 04:53pm
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Who will take them to icc?
Sisi and his loyals should be icc .what Egypt by force govt did history will curse them always .
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Allen
14-08-2014 06:57pm
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I am so glad we can count on you "khan"... Pass some ice for my drink Shakespeare
You regularly post barely comprehensible drivel under multiple names. In the process you basically reveal the limitations of a blind brotherhood follower.
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Khan
13-08-2014 04:53pm
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Who will take them to icc?
Sisi and his loyals should be icc .what Egypt by force govt did history will curse them always .
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6



Bubbly
12-08-2014 11:16pm
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Crime against humanity
Gen CC's crimes against humanity are not different than Israel's crimes in Gaza.These both criminal allies Israel & Gen must be tried in ICC for their crimes against humanity.
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5



Key
12-08-2014 10:22pm
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HRW again and their deliberate lies
Like the MB, HRW lie deliberately. They don't lie because they don't know the truth. They lie to facilitate weakening of nations targeted for division. It's amazing how they talk about what is happening in Egypt, as if they are the Egyptians and the Egyptian majority are green men from Mars. Egyptians will never give up exposing the criminal atrocities that happened in the two foreign-backed terror sit-ins and how facts were twisted to allude that the MB were the victims where in reality they were the killers.
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4



Allen
12-08-2014 06:31pm
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HRW do you report on what goes on in Israel? Turkey? Nigeria? Gaza? Korea? Libya ?????
No because you are essentially nothing more then a biased, irrelevant habitually pro terrorist organization. Egypt deporting your members shows Egypt has no respect for you, nor does it much care about your opinions.
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Key
15-08-2014 05:10am
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@Samantha
HRW condemning Israel’s aggression against Palestinians is just a big farce and a lie. Just last month HRW described in its first press release, the mass massacres committed by the Israeli’s occupation against civilians in Ghaza mentioning,"It May appear to be collective punishment”. The nerve, May appear, or may not! Now, crimes against civilians became may or may not appear, and mass killings and crimes became “collective punishment!!! But Egypt fighting terrorism and disengagement of armed sit-ins of MB, is the most horrible crime against the entire humanity, as claimed by HRW! Please don't try comparing HRW's fairy tale reports of the occupation of Palestine against Egypt's fight against terror. It's not even close.
Samantha Criscione
13-08-2014 08:28pm
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You are missing the point, Allen
HRW is a defender of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. In fact, they DO attack Israel unfairly, just as they attack Egypt unfairly. -- Samantha Criscione
momoyay
12-08-2014 09:12pm
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HRW
They do go to Israel and many other nations to report on abuses.
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bekr
12-08-2014 05:59pm
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hrw raba
HRW is a serious organisation. Fact are facts. Someone is responsible for this mass killing. Masacre was comitted and time wiwill come when those who did it will answeer for thei ceminal deeds.
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Onam Abdullah
12-08-2014 05:22pm
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Barbaric and Shameful
This is why we have the likes of ISIS. Weldone HRW, it's only with unbiased reports like this we will have justice. And it's only with justice we will defeat extremism and corruption.
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Masry
12-08-2014 04:24pm
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Terrorist no protesters
Free passage was made for all peacefully protesters. No security force on earth would not return fire when attacked. Come to Washington DC and just point a gun at security and see what happens. Encampments are dispersed all the time around the world. If fire is received then it is returned in overwhelming force.If these protesters are armed they are no longer protesters they are criminals and terrorist. A disturbed woman made a wrong turn close to the white house last year I think. She was asked to stop and get out of her car. When she refused and drove off she was shot at over 50 times with a baby in the car and no weapons. If you are a threat it is the norm to be confronted with overwhelming force.
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