Egyptian government employees clean up outside the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque, where supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi had a protest camp at Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 (Photo: AP)
The head of a government fact-finding committee tasked with looking into events after the 30 June protests last year says that witnesses from the Muslim Brotherhood spoke to Human Rights Watch for its recently-issued report but not with the committee due to security fears, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported Thursday.
Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad said in comments to reporters that the committee is facing challenges, including a lack of Brotherhood members willing to share their accounts of last August's forceful dispersal of the Rabaa Al-Adawiya sit-in – the main protest camp for supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Riad said the committee offered anonymity to witnesses – but that they still refused to talk.
A statement by Riad's committee on Wednesday criticised HRW's report released a day earlier to mark the first anniversary of the Rabaa dispersal, adding that HRW "disregarded" violence and attacks on churches, universities and police stations, Reuters' affiliated Aswat Masriya reported.
In its report, HRW deemed last year's killings by Egyptian security forces during the Rabaa dispersal as "likely a crime against humanity."
The report from the New York-based human rights group mentioned that after the dispersal at least 42 churches were attacked in the governorates of Minya, Asiut, Fayoum, Giza, Suez, Sohag, Beni Suef and North Sinai. It also highlighted that there were attacks on police stations.
At least 817 were killed during the dispersal, the report said, while other estimates put the death toll at more than 1,000. Another 800 were arrested at the sit-in.
The state's fact-finding committee said it will "objectively" study and evaluate the HRW report, especially since it has closely observed events in Egypt.
The committee also renewed its calls to local and international human rights organisations and families of those who were killed in the dispersal to speak up with any information and evidence they might possess, assuring confidentiality.
Replying to accusations that the committee's work is not transparent, Riad – also a former international judge and law professor – said that the body is committed to secrecy until the final report is released, expectedly in September.
The Egyptian government also criticised HRW's report this week, alleging that it was "biased" and had turned a blind eye to terrorist attacks taking place in Egypt since the dispersals.
The fact-finding committee was formed last December by a decree from then-interim president Adly Mansour.