Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (Cairo)

11 August 2014

Egypt: In the First Anniversary of Rabaa and El-Nahda Dispersal the Union Demands for a Fact Finding Committee to Announce Its Findings to the Public Opinion

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).

press release

The Union of human rights organizations and transitional justice demands in the first anniversary of Rabaa and el-Nahda dispersal for a fact finding committee headed by the international justice Fuad Abd ElManaem Riad to announce their findings to the public opinion, send a final report to the Egyptian government, unmask Rabaa and el-Nahda events and all the violations committed during or after the sit-in with the assault to churches and public properties, implement the recommendations of the National Council for Human Rights on the opening of an independent judicial investigation on all the events that coincided with Rabaa and el-Nahda sit-in and those which accompanied its dispersal by the security forces, as well as the events of various governorates resulting from it and to determine the responsibility for them. The committee should also take the due judicial procedures promptly against all those involved in the perpetration of these crimes and submit them to trial assuring a fair trial, in order to prevent the impunity of the perpetrators.

The official statistics issued by the Egyptian forensic medicine authority reported that the victims of Rabaa and el-Nahda reached a total of 632 dead of which 624 civilians and 8 policemen. 377 bodies were subjected to autopsy and the number of those which were not dissected reached about 180, beside the number of injuried that received treatment in hospitals and whose conditions improved. The reaction to the dispersal resulted in the death of 64 policemen.

In the aftermath of the Rabaa and el-Nahda dispersal the country witnessed the burning of numerous churches and the assault to houses and properties of the Copts. The number of churches attacked reached 38. They were burnt, robbed and some of them exploded. 23 churches were partially assaulted throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. The Maspero Youth Union reported that among the Coptic schools which were completely burnt, 6 were in different governorates. Even 7 associations related to the churches were burnt. Moreover, as the Coptic properties are concerned, the Union reported the attack of 58 houses in various areas of the country (which led some of the owners to emigrate outside the cities), 85 shops, 16 pharmacies, 3 hotels, and 75 buses and cars belonging to the churches and the Copts. In the Minya governorate the centers Dalgia, Dermwas and Bani Mazar saw the assault of many churches, the burning of the monastery of the Virgin and Saint Abraham with all the inside objects (the monumental church of the Virgin, Mary Girgis church, the building of the amenities, the residence of the bishop, and a nursery), and the attack, destruction, plunder, and burning of more than 20 Coptic houses. The same issue happened in the Assiut governorate where the church of Saint John the Baptist with the Abnoub center, the Aladvinst church in Yosry Ragab street, the Apostolic church in Kolta street, and Mary Girgis church of the Coptic Orthodox in Kolta street were burnt; the Church of the Archangel in el-Names street and the siege of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese in Abo Tig were attacked; the houses and the properties of the Copts in Kolta and el-Gomhorya streets were attacked; the structure of St. Therese Church was burnt as well as various police stations and public properties.

The Egyptian former president Adly Mansour had already announced that on 25 December 2013 the formation of a fact finding committee on the events happened after 30 June 2013, including the dispersal of Rabaa and el-Nahda sit-in, in order to collect information and evidence about the events that took along with the sit-in. The committee submitted its report in six months, but it required the extension of its working period for three more months and invited all the organizations and their members to perform their tasks, submit their information and evidence that trace the path to the truth of the events, realize a final report to unmask the real causes of numerous deaths in the said events, especially in the light of the many reports issued by various organizations on the number of deaths. Thus a report on the number of deaths in these events is officially submitted to the public opinion in order to discover the mistakes made in this issue.

Upon the matter of the Union situation, they were reassured upon the importance of the right to have a civil peaceful union upon peaceful intentions as their right as Egyptian citizens, as it was stated upon international agreements of the National Human Rights Council measurements or criteria. However, it should not associate the pleasure of enjoying that right of (national peaceful assemblement) in the situational context to be attacked by the other side of the Human Rights of politics by other Peaceful sub-groups of political organization.

The right for a peaceful assembly is ensured by the Egyptian constitutions and the international documents related to human rights. Article 21 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights states "The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association", and this is acknowledged by the Arab Charter on Human Rights about the right to peaceful assembly in article 24.

Peaceful sit-in is a case of peaceful demonstration, constitutionally ensured in all the constitutions of the world, including the Egyptian constitution. It is an entrenchment of constitutional origin, that is freedom of expression and opinion.. unless peaceful..

In other words, every Egyptian citizen has the right to express his/her opinion in an way: oral or written under the condition that it will not harm the principle of peacefulness. If it lost the aim of the principle to remain peaceful and began adopting unfavourable behaviour and attitudes such as " incitement, agreements and participation",

or if he/she began adopting the concept of the right to protest upon the application or behaviour of endangering the rights of others or endangering the rights of the people through using private or public money investments or physical self abuse, or began sabotaging the transportation system or public property or began adopting his/her civil right to peaceful protest and turning it to a diluted concept to infuse fear, hatred within the people by treating their sense of security and peacefulness.

That is what happened in Rabaa and el-Nahda were the sit-in turned to be unpeaceful against what affirmed by the international charters, the international law and the comparative legislations

and this is what gave the police the legal authority to disperse the sit-in, act that represented an overcoming of the right to demonstrate ensured by the law and a necessary step to maintain security and restore the prestige of the state

El-Nahda and Rabaa sit-in witnessed many violations of fundamental human rights, including:

- First: torture of civilians to death, where the total number of bodies with the effects of torture led to death, from El Nahda square and Rabaa area, reached 11 bodies.

- Second: collective punishment for Rabaa and Ben- El Sarayat population, as the sit-in has disturbed the security and social peace and created a state of unprecedented traffic congestion after the closure of three major roads which are street El Nasser, El Tyaran and Youssef Abbas and some of the roads leading to them.

- Third: usage of children as human shields, where they conducted a demonstration leading by a group of children under the slogan "Children against the coup" and was attended by a number of 10 years old children, wearing white shrouds with "martyr under demand" banners .

- Fourth: the armament within El Nhda and Rabaa sit-in: the Population Monitored in both areas weapons of all kinds, whether light or heavy or advanced.

Here the sit-ins and demonstrations became no longer peaceful, since weapons, terrorizing, killing innocent people, torturing them to death, and the use of children as human shields, took out these sit-ins from the peaceful scope adopted by all international charters and conventions, international law and comparative legislation as a prerequisite in the peaceful demonstrations, all of that gave the police legal legitimacy to break up the sit-ins as it represented override the right to demonstrate which is guaranteed by law as well as being a necessary step to maintain security and restore the prestige of the state.

It needs to be underlined that the phenomenon of strikes and demonstrations is one of the new phenomena that have appeared on the legal and political scene in Egypt. Egypt has witnessed dangerous tensions that paralyzed the common laws by the assimilation of the rules violations and the organization of these phenomena and there is a minimal principle of common law and constitutional law that need to be adhered to and these are pacifism, non-violence or a threat to national security or private and public interests of the citizens. If we deviate from this then we enter into a legal vicious circle, and the state has the right to struggle all these crimes as it considered as a listed crimes, and bring those who are responsible to a trial before the qualified judicial authorities, which is a Is a necessary step to retain safety and return dignity to the state.

In particular, all constitutions and laws in the world do not deal with strike and the closing-off of streets and squares or the possession of weapons of any kind. Laws only deal with the right to demonstrate peacefully with specific control which means that the permission that is granted limits the places to go and without blocking the traffic or closing off streets and squares and without impairing the work of governmental interests. In this case the state organs have the right to intervene strongly and dissolve groups and if there is any indication of use of weapons by the protesters or the strikers the reaction will be severe and weapons will in turn be used in order to disperse the strikers and protesters.

Finally, the Union for human rights organizations and the transitional justice asserts the importance of the right to assemble, considering it one of the fundamental human rights ensured by the Egyptian Constitution. It is one of the columns of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, but it must be enjoyed in a context of respect of human rights and rules of democracy. It also recommended to reform the law on demonstrations as per the National Council for Human Rights remarks and to promote the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression.

The Union added that Rabaa and el-Nahda sit-in witnessed numerous violations in the field of human rights, and this brought to the death of hundreds of innocents who died without justification both during the dispersal of sit-in or violent actions. It is necessary that the committee announces all its findings to the public opinion, in particular after they have been published in the reports of the human rights organizations in this regard, and the report of the National Council for Human Rights which announced the truth about Rabaa and el-Nahda sit-in, bringing to trial those involved in such events.

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