16 Egyptian rights groups condemn sectarian violence against Copts

Ahram Online , Wednesday 7 Aug 2013

A statement signed by 16 rights groups accuses Islamists of inciting violence and blames state for failure to protect Egyptian Christians

Orthodox Cathedral
A teargas canister is fired by Egyptian riot police into the compound of the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in April 2013 (Photo: AP)

A number of Egyptian human rights organisations condemned on Wednesday what they described as “clear incitement to violence and religious hatred” by the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.

Sixteen rights groups issued a joint statement expressing "grave concern regarding the increasing sectarian violence which has targeted Christians and their churches since the June 30 uprising.”

The statement, signed by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, Egyptians against Religious Discrimination, the Arab Penal Reform Organisation and Nazra for Feminist Studies among others, also condemned the state for failing to prevent sectarian attacks.

"Reports from northern Sinai reveal that the military and the police continue to be incapable of providing sufficient protection to civilians – both Muslims and Christians – in the face of acts of violence…. by armed groups of Islamist extremists… [reports of] a large number of Christians from Northern Sinai have been displaced … churches have remained closed most of the time due to fears that they will be attacked," the groups said.

Attacks of Coptic homes and churches have been reported recently in villages in Upper Egypt’s Luxor, Sohag and Minya.

A Coptic priest was shot dead in North Sinai on 6 July amid a spike in armed attacks by unknown militants against the military and police in the Egyptian peninsula since Morsi's deposition.

"The undersigned organisations further denounce the continued negligence of the institutions of the state to provide the necessary protection to Christian citizens, to decisively confront sectarian attacks, and to enforce the law by holding those responsible for the acts of sectarian violence, which have been seen in several governorates to account," the statement continued.

Egypt's prosecutor-general ordered on Tuesday the detention of 11 people for a 15-day period pending investigations into sectarian clashes in Minya on Saturday that left 17 wounded.

The groups called on Islamists to reject violence and on the state to prosecute sectarian attacks and to stop Egypt's traditional method of resolving such conflicts by carrying out reconciliation talks, which the groups say usually favour the stronger party.

They also urged that the conclusions of investigations into sectarian crimes be made public and that witnesses of such crimes be provided sufficient protection.

"The prosecution should call for an independent investigation to determine what led to inadequate protection being provided to Christians, their property, and their places of worship, whether by the military or the police," the statement concluded.

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