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Egypt condemns Human Rights Watch as ‘negative’ and ‘biased’

Egypt condemns Human Rights Watch as ‘negative’ and ‘biased’
An Egyptian protester on August 2013 following the dispersal of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters. Credit: AFP
An Egyptian protester on August 2013 following the dispersal of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi supporters. Credit: AFP

Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) condemned on Tuesday a report released by international watchdog Human Rights Watch on the violent dispersal of two encampments set up in support of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last August.

The government body described the 195-page report, released by HRW on Tuesday after a year-long investigation, as “negative and biased,” in a statement by the SIS.

“The report ignored operations against Egypt at the hands of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group in 2013,” the SIS statement read.

The report, entitled “All According to Plan: The Rabaa Massacre and Mass Killings of Protesters in Egypt,” accused Egypt’s security personnel of “systematically” killing at least 1,150 pro-Mursi protesters in July and August 2013. It added that such killings “probably amount to crimes against humanity.”

Egypt’s SIS accused HRW of “ignoring” that the first fatality during the dispersal of the pro-Mursi Rabaa Al-Adawiya encampment was a policeman.

“The policeman was speaking to protesters through a microphone to direct them to a safe exit out of the protest area when he was shot dead,” the statement read.

In a report on Rabaa’s dispersal released in mid-March, the state-affiliated National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) had also accused “armed assailants” of shooting dead a policeman on August 14, 2013. The council added that the shooting led to the start of sporadic clashes between protesters and security forces dispersing the Rabaa sit-in.

HRW stated in its report that security forces started their assault on the sit-in using teargas canisters and birdshot pellets at protesters near the entrances to the sit-in, adding that they soon escalated to live fire. The watchdog added that during the dispersal, security forces left no safe exit for protesters for nearly 12 hours.

The SIS accused HRW of “highlighting the claims” of the National Coalition for Supporting Legitimacy, a coalition of pro-Mursi political parties and movements headed by the Muslim Brotherhood. It added that the report came as “no surprise” given HRW’s “well-known approaches.”

“This reflects the lack of professionalism of HRW cadres who depended on accounts of unidentified witnesses and biased and not trusted sources,” the SIS said.
HRW said it interviewed over 200 witnesses, including protesters, doctors, local residents and independent journalists. The organisation also visited the encampment sites during the dispersal or immediately afterwards.

On Monday, HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth and Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson were denied entry at the Cairo International Airport and forced to fly back. Roth and Whitson were travelling to Cairo to attend the Tuesday release of the report.

HRW strongly condemned its delegation’s refused entry into Egypt, accusing Egyptian authorities of attempting to silence criticism.

Egypt’s Ministry of Interior claimed on Tuesday that the HRW delegation did not secure an entry visa into Egypt. It added that HRW had requested meeting Egyptian officials during the release of their report in August, yet was asked to postpone its visit to September “because the suggested time for the visit is inconvenient.”

HRW had described the sit-ins’ dispersal as “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history.” The dispersal left at least 817 protesters killed, according to an HRW death toll provided in the report. Official figures meanwhile put the death toll at 627.

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Aswat Masriya is a Thomson Reuters Foundation-sponsored website that covers Egypt's transition to democracy. en.aswatmasriya.com

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