A group of human rights organisations condemn Egyptian security forces' violent dispersal of sit-ins by supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi on Wednesday, but accuses the Muslim Brotherhood of trying to start a civil war in their violent reaction to the dispersal.
The groups urged the Muslim Brotherhood – the Islamist movement from which Morsi hails – to denounce violence, describing its actions following the sit-ins' dispersals as "terrorism," in a joint statement late Thursday.
The organisations include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Arab Penal Reform Organisation, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and others.
The violent police crackdown on the sit-ins and the ensuing violence, such as Morsi supporters attack against police stations, government buildings and a reported 52 churches left at least 638 dead and thousands injured.
The Muslim Brotherhood came under severe criticism in the statement, whereby the organisations accused the group of choosing to adopt violence in their political struggle. They accused the Brotherhood of showing "no concern for the lives of citizens it claims to be legitimately empowered to govern."
They accused the group of seeking to start a civil war in light of what they described as "criminal acts" they claimed the group engaged in with its supporters, including "terrorising citizens," attacking churches and government buildings and threatening Christian citizens.
Prior to the sit-ins' dispersal, supporters of the former president had engaged in armed skirmishes with residents of several neighbourhoods in Cairo and Giza.
"The increased scope of these criminal acts indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood has decided to pursue political violence and terrorism for the time being; instead of engaging in self-criticism and recognising its failure to maintain the trust of citizens who voted for it, the group seeks to spur the country toward a civil war," the rights groups said in their statement.
The groups also condemned the government's excessive use of force against pro-Morsi protesters.
The dispersal and its aftermath "left hundreds dead and thousands seriously injured … we believe the security apparatus could have avoided this human tragedy if it had complied with international rules and standards for the dispersal of assemblies," they assert.
"That some participants in the sit-in, and its leaders committed criminal acts, were in possession of weapons and engaged in violence does not give the security authorities a license to impose collective punishment and use excessive force when dispersing the sit-in," the statement reads.
The groups criticised the government's management of the crisis, saying the way it dealt with the sit-ins was an "utter failure" failing to "respect citizens’ rights and the right to life and security, and an inability to comprehend the political repercussions of mismanaging this crisis over the last six weeks."
Fearing an escalation of violence, the organisations addressed the possibility of retaliatory violence by the ousted president's supporters and criticised Egyptian authorities for failing to do their part to protect citizens.
"Decision makers, when choosing to use excessive force, did not show due consideration to containing retaliatory violence by the MB [Muslim Brotehrhood] and its supporters, although retribution against Coptic Egyptians and public incitement to terrorism which began several weeks ago. This raises additional concerns about the competence of political and security decision-making at this critical juncture," the group said.
Since Morsi's ouster on 3 July, many churches have come under attack by protesters demonstrating against his removal from power.
In conclusion, the statement urged the government to adopt a plan to contain violence and restore the political process, warning that security solutions alone have failed in the past.
They also urged Brotherhood members and supporters to "cease violence and incitement to violence against Christian citizens and the group’s political opponents, denounce all MB leaders who incited to or practiced violence, accept the political outcome of the June 30 uprising, return to peaceful politics, and develop the group’s religious and political discourse."
Morsi was deposed by the army on 3 July after mass protests against him that demanded early presidential elections.
A military-sponsored roadmap drawn up jointly with Morsi's opposition laid down a framework to make wide ranging constitutional amendments and stage parliamentary and presidential elections.
The current government, led by liberal economist and politician Hazem El-Beblawi, defended the sit-ins' dispersal and claimed many protesters were armed.
Conversely, long-time liberal opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei resigned his post as vice president for international affairs following the violent crackdown, saying he "cannot be responsible before God for a single drop of blood."