HRW calls on Egypt's Morsi to ensure fair trials for sectarian crimes defendants

Ahram Online, Monday 16 Jul 2012

Human Rights Watch says Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi should urgently address sectarian violence in the country by bringing culprits to justice through fair trials

National Unity demonstration
National Unity demonstration in Imbaba on May 9 (Photo: Ahram Online)

The government of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi should urgently address sectarian violence in the country by bringing culprits to justice through fair trials, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday in a press release.

"The administration [of Morsi] should ensure that those responsible for the violence are identified, investigated, and prosecuted in courts that meet international fair trial standards and order a retrial of those sentenced by discredited emergency law courts," read the HRW statement.

Shortly after the 2011 uprising, sectarian violence alarmingly increased across the nation, which triggered many protests from Copts who feel persecuted by authorities and not protected against Islamic fundamentalists.

The worst crime against Christians took place in October 2011 when a protest march held by Copts in Maspero, Cairo's downtown, were attacked by unknown armed thugs, before the interference of the military forces left over 20 deaths.

Months earlier in the impoverished district of Imbaba, fierce clashes took place between Muslims and Copts over after priests allegedly kidnapped a woman who converted to Islam. Several were killed from both sides in a fire exchange.

"Under the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which took power after former president Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011, Egypt has had at least 12 incidents of serious sectarian violence, which has left numerous homes and shops destroyed and at least 25 people dead," the statement added.

"Only two cases have resulted in prosecutions, but prosecutors referred the cases to Emergency State Security Courts, which were notorious for failing to meet minimum due process standards and whose verdicts cannot be appealed. Other cases were handled with so-called reconciliation meetings, which did not result in justice."

"In October 2011, Human Rights Watch documented three serious attacks on Christians in which prosecutors declined to investigate suspected arsonists, looters, and assailants. Those episodes – in Atfih, Muqattam, and Marinab – have yet to be investigated."

Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said: “Putting an end to sectarian violence means prosecuting those responsible and making sure that the outcome is fair.”

Copts' fear over more sectarian violence rose after Morsi, a leading figure of the Muslim Brotherhood, assumed Egypt's presidency last month.

To read the full HRW statement, click here.

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