Rights group details mass killings by Egypt security forces
HRW's damning report details how Egyptian security forces gunned down 1 150 protesters last year - an event that is not even under investigation.
WARNING: Video contains graphic footage that will offend sensitive viewers.
The systematic and widespread killing of at least 1 150 demonstrators by Egyptian security forces in July and August 2013 probably amounts to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said in a report based on a year-long investigation.
In the August 14 dispersal of the Rab'a al-Adawiya sit-in alone, security forces, following a plan that seemed to envision several thousand deaths, killed a minimum of 817 people and more likely at least 1 000.
The report, "All According to Plan: The Rab'a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt", documents the way the Egyptian police and army methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds of demonstrators opposed to the military's July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first elected civilian president, at six demonstrations between July 5 and August 17 2013.
While there is also evidence that some protesters used firearms during several of these demonstrations, Human Rights Watch was able to confirm their use in only a few instances, which do not justify the grossly disproportionate and premeditated lethal attacks on overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.
"In Rab'a Square, Egyptian security forces carried out one of the world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "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."
The authorities have failed to hold even a single low-level police or army officer accountable for any of the killings, much less any official responsible for ordering them, and continue to brutally suppress dissent. In light of the continued impunity, an international investigation and prosecutions of those implicated are needed, Human Rights Watch said.
Crimes against humanity consist of specific criminal acts committed on a widespread or systematic basis as part of an "attack on a civilian population," meaning there is some degree of planning or policy to commit the crime.
Such acts include murder, persecution on political grounds, and "other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health."
Given the widespread and systematic nature of these killings, and the evidence suggesting that they were part of a policy to use lethal force against largely unarmed protesters on political grounds, these killings most likely amount to crimes against humanity. The prohibition of crimes against humanity is among the most fundamental in international criminal law and can be the basis for individual criminal liability in international courts, as well as in domestic courts in many countries under the principle of universal jurisdiction.
The government created an official fact-finding committee to investigate human rights abuses since June 30 2013, and the quasi-official National Council on Human Rights in March 2014 separately released a report finding that security forces used excessive force in Rab'a.
However, there has been no official accounting for what happened or any credible judicial investigations or prosecutions. The government has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing on the part of security forces. Instead, it repaved the streets and rebuilt the damaged buildings, awarded bonuses to forces that participated in the dispersals, and erected a monument to honour the police and army in the centre of Rab'a Square.
"The government's ongoing efforts to crush dissent, sweep its abuses under the rug and rewrite history cannot erase what happened in Rab'a last year," Roth said. "Given Egypt's resounding failure to investigate these crimes, the time has come for the international community to step in."
Human Rights Watch had planned to release the report in Cairo, but authorities refused to allow a Human Rights Watch delegation to enter Egypt on August 10.