Egypt fires back at report on protest violence

BY Larisa Epatko  August 13, 2014 at 4:11 PM EST
Egyptian security forces move in to disperse a protest camp held by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 14, 2013 near Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

Egyptian security forces move in to disperse a protest camp held by supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood on Aug. 14, 2013 near Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque. Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images

A year ago, Egyptian security forces bulldozed the main protest camp in Cairo, after the demonstrators had been rallying for weeks against the removal of President Mohammed Morsi. The Egyptian government this week disputed a Human Rights Watch report that likened the security forces’ actions to crimes against humanity.

Prior to dispersing the protesters, Egypt’s interim government had declared a state of emergency and issued a nighttime curfew in Cairo and elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch released a report on Tuesday that said its researchers who visited area hospitals and morgues after the incident, counted more than 800 people killed when the police and army broke up the demonstration in Rabaa Square in eastern Cairo on Aug. 14, 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,” the group said in a statement.

It said no police or army officers were held accountable and urged other countries to withhold aid to military and law enforcement agencies in Egypt until it adopts human rights measures.

In response, Egypt’s State Information Service issued a statement saying Human Rights Watch’s report “presents a highly negative and biased account of the violent events that took place in Egypt during the year 2013, and totally fails to adequately report on the attacks carried out by the Brotherhood, as a terrorist organization, and its supporters.”

Hundreds of supporters of Morsi and his political party the Muslim Brotherhood currently are on trial for assaulting security forces and other alleged violent acts last August.

The clearing of the camp came after the “failure of all political and popular efforts aimed at persuading the protesters to disperse peacefully” and after escalating complaints from residents that the sit-ins were being used to launch non-peaceful marches and criminal activity, the statement said.

The information service also noted that the Egyptian government has set up a national independent fact-finding commission led by former international judge and law professor Fouad Abdel-Moneim Riad to investigate the violence in July and August 2013, and that the Human Rights Watch report preempted its results.