13 August 2014

Egypt: HRW Calls for International Inquiry into Egypt Mass Killings

Photo: Amru Salahuddien/Xinhua
A supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi sleeps by sand barriers set up by protesters around Raba'a square in Cairo (file photo).

Human Rights Watch has issued a report saying that a violent crackdown on protesters by Egyptian security forces last year likely amounted to "crimes against humanity." It also called for an international inquiry.

The report, released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday, found that Egyptian security forces deliberately killed at least 1,150 demonstrators in July and August of last year after Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was toppled in a military coup.

It said the police and armed forces "methodically opened fire with live ammunition on crowds of demonstrators" opposed to the coup at six separate demonstrations between July 5 and August 17, 2013.

By far the greatest single loss of life came on August 14 last year, when security forces opened fire on a pro-Morsi sit-in at Cairo's Rabaah al-Adawiyah square, leaving at least 817 dead after 12 hours.

The New-York-based group described this as the "world's largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history."

'Planned at the highest level'

HRW's executive director, Kenneth Roth, said in the report that the crackdown was not "merely a case of excessive force or poor training," but had been planned "at the highest levels of the Egyptian government."

He also noted that "many of the same officials are still in power in Egypt, and have a lot to answer for."

Among these are President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi, who at the time was an army general and the country's defense minister, responsible for the coup that toppled the democratically elected Morsi on July 3, 2013, amid mass anti-government demonstrations.

The authors of the report said they had contacted Egyptian government officials repeatedly during the course of their investigation, but that they had received no response to their inquiries about the killings.

Roth called on the United Nations to launch an international commission of inquiry to investigate the mass killings of demonstrators last summer.

He and another senior HWR official had hoped to unveil the report at a press conference in Cairo, but were denied entry into the country. The two were held for almost 12 hours at Cairo International Airport on Monday before being told they were being deported for "security reasons," the other HRW official, Sarah Leah Whitson said via Twitter.

- AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP

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