Human Rights Watch has accused a dozen Egyptian officials including the current president General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of perpetrating crimes against humanity during last year's attack on peaceful protesters and called for an international investigation. Will these materialize? Given the international environment and the outlaw regimes backing Sisi and his thugs, it is highly unlikely but HRW's exposure of such crimes is welcome.
Tuesday August 12, 2014, 19:53 DST
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the Egyptian military including the current president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of premeditated massacre in the slaughter of unarmed civilians a year ago.
The Egyptian military unleashed its firepower against protesters that had done no more than participate in a peaceful sit in at Rab‘a al-Aqawiya and Nahda Squares in Cairo demanding the reinstatement of the first ever democratically elected president in Egyptian history, Dr Mohamed Mursi.
On two consecutive days—August 14 and 16—the military under the command of General Sisi who was then defence minister, ordered a massacre of civilians.
Among the dead were hundreds of women and children.
Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch were detained for 12 hours at Cairo airport on August 10 before being refused entry into the country.
They had gone to Egypt to present their report’s findings at a press conference and to present it to the authorities.
The military regime headed by Sisi did not want its crimes highlighted by an international human rights body in its own capital city. The HRW investigation that took a year to complete found that the actions of senior figures all the way up the chain of command amounted to crimes against humanity.
The 188-page report, titled “All According to Plan: The Rab‘a Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” identified about a dozen senior military and other officials for direct responsibility for the Rab‘a and Nahda massacres.
Among those fingered in the HRW report are Sisi who was then the defence minister, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, another retired general, and the head of special forces, Medhat Menshawy who was directly responsible for the massacres.
“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 HRW’s Roth.
“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.”
“It is appalling and heartbreaking that the hopes of so many Egyptians following the 2011 uprisings faded into the bloodshed and carnage of last year’s mass killings,” Roth added.
In a meeting with local human rights groups on August 5, 2013, an Interior Ministry official had said the ministry expected a death toll of up to 3,500 people. In a televised interview on August 31, 2013, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim said that the ministry had expected losses of “10 percent of the people” in Rab‘a, acknowledging that the sit-in involved “more than 20,000 people.” The actual figure was more than 200,000.
In September 2013, then Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm that the number of protesters killed in the dispersal of Rab‘a and of a smaller sit-in in al-Nahda Square in Giza on August 14 was “close to 1,000.”
He added: “We expected much more than what actually happened on the ground. The final outcome was less than what we expected.” The day after the dispersal, Ibrahim told Al-Masry al-Youm, “the dispersal plan succeeded 100 percent.”
Egyptian security forces attacked the Rab’a protest encampment from each of its main entrances, using armed personnel carriers (APCs), bulldozers, ground troops, and snipers. No warning was given before opening fire into large crowds, leaving no safe exit for nearly 12 hours.
Security forces also fired on makeshift medical facilities and positioned snipers to target whoever sought to enter or exit Rab’a hospital. “Towards the end of the day, the central stage, field hospital, mosque, and first floor of Rab’a hospital were set ablaze, probably by security forces,” according to the HRW report.
“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.”
The HRW report calls upon the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate the mass killings of demonstrators since June 30, 2013.
“Criminal charges should also be brought against those implicated in these acts, including in courts that apply the principle of universal jurisdiction. States should further suspend military and law enforcement aid to Egypt until it adopts measures to end serious human rights violations,” says the HRW report.
Given the list of backers of the Sisi regime—the medieval tribal kingdom of Saudi Arabia that has showered billions of dollars on it, the massive support from the zionist regime in occupied Palestine and the regime in Washington—it is unrealistic to expect that any action would be taken.
What is required is for the Egyptian people to continue their struggle and for peace and justice-loving people globally to lend them all moral, political and other kind of support so that this pharaonic regime is consigned to the dustbin of history where it rightly belongs.