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Egyptian groups protest after 80 demonstrators killed by police

A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi runs from tear gas thrown at pro-Morsi protesters by police during clashes in Nasr city area, east of Cairo, 27 July 2013
A supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi runs from tear gas thrown at pro-Morsi protesters by police during clashes in Nasr city area, east of Cairo, 27 July 2013

REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

The undersigned organizations are severely alarmed by the massacre that took place on the Nasr Road in Cairo at dawn on Saturday 27 July 2013, after police forces attacked demonstrators supporting the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The attack left 80 dead according to official reports, while the Brotherhood estimated the casualties at 120. Another nine citizens were killed in clashes at Raml Station around al-Qaid Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria, and MB supporters detained and tortured citizens inside the mosque.

The political circumstances of the massacre are well known, but the common denominator between it and other similar incidents is the lack of real accountability for the perpetrators of past killings, assassinations, and torture. The current interior minister is the same minister who was appointed during the tenure of the Brotherhood and who was responsible for the massacres in Port Said and Suez in January that left 50 people dead. Instead of being held accountable and prosecuted for this crime, he and his men were praised the following day in an official speech by deposed MB President Mohamed Morsi. He was further rewarded by the current interim president by retaining his post.

The Egyptian security forces' recurrent use of excessive, lethal violence in the face of political protest will only exacerbate the political ills that led Egyptian society to rebel against the policies of Mubarak, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the Muslim Brotherhood. According the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, law enforcement may only use firearms against individuals in self-defense or in the defense of others against an imminent threat of death or serious injury, to prevent a serious, life-threatening crime, or to arrest a person who constitutes a serious threat and resists authority or to prevent his escape, and then only when less violent methods prove insufficient to achieve these goals. In general, lethal firearms may not be intentionally employed except when unavoidable to protect life (principle 9). The minister of interior has failed to comply with these standards.

Under the rule of President Morsi, leaders, members, and supporters of the MB engaged in torture in a mosque and near the walls of the Ittihadiya Presidential Palace, and killed and assaulted peaceful protestors, artists, media personnel, and rights workers. They also set siege to the Supreme Constitutional Court and prevented judges from working for nearly a month, and they are suspected of having assassinated several young opposition activists. There has been no accountability for these crimes, neither under Morsi nor the current interim president; indeed, the MB has continued to commit these crimes after its fall from power. One prominent Brotherhood leader even publicly threatened that terrorist activity would only stop in Sinai if President Morsi were reinstated, an unprecedented admission that the MB has not definitively renounced violence as a means of achieving political objectives. It is also consistent with the practice of political violence, which the Brotherhood did not disavow even while in power.

The undersigned organizations fear that the justice system in Egypt remains incapable of ensuring justice for society and for victims given the lack of political will to do so, as was seen first under the SCAF and later under the Brotherhood. The state's cursory approach to the massacre at the Republican Guards Club on 8 July 2013 casts doubt on the state's ability to deal responsibly with the latest massacre and to hold the perpetrators accountable. As such, this latest massacre joins a long series of killings documented by rights groups since the January 2011 uprising, including during the uprising itself and the killings which occurred at Maspero, at Mohammed Mahmoud Street in 2011 and 2012, in Port Said in 2012 and 2013, in front of the Cabinet building, at the Ittihadiyya Presidential Palace, and in Muqattam.

If the current violent political polarization continues amid the continued absence of political will to achieve justice - which results in the incapacitation of the justice system - Egyptians can hope for nothing more than that future massacres reap fewer victims.

As such, the undersigned groups demand the following:

  • The interior minister should be dismissed and held accountable for his actions. During his tenure, his subordinates have committed two massacres: one in Port Said in January 2013 and one against demonstrators on the Nasr Road on 27 July. The minister's responsibility is not mitigated by the fact that some demonstrators first shot at the police or local residents or that they cut vital roads or built cement barriers to obstruct traffic.
  • Members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood who reject political violence and incitement to religious and sectarian hatred must take action to persuade their colleagues and leaders to renounce these methods and to turn over those who engage in violence or carry weapons during political activities to the proper law enforcement bodies.
  • The role of human rights organizations in uncovering and documenting the facts of the latest massacre should be facilitated.

Signatory organizations
1. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
2. Arab Penal Reform Organization
3. Arabic Network for Human Rights Information
4. Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Aid
5. Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
6. Group for Human Rights Legal Assistance
7. Human Rights Association for the Assistance of Prisoners
8. Land Center for Human Rights
9. The Federation of NGOs Against Violence Against Women
10. Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

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